I’ve worked with “at risk” youth for most of my adult life and have lived with for my entire life. In that time, some things have stayed the same while other things have changed in startling ways. Kids often hope for value, acceptance, and appreciation. That has stayed extremely consistent. What has changed is the tendency to feel offended.
Whether learned or copied, being offended has become a overly relied upon strategy for dealing with challenges from others. It takes disagreement and forces a victim-perpetrator dynamic upon differences of opinion. Disagreement takes work and a willingness to regulate one’s emotional responses so as to find resolution. Offense allows for an abrupt end to disagreement by prioritizing the victim and vilifying the perceived perpetrator. Kids are paying attention to adults and are learning to silence those who disagree or offer constructive criticism. For me, it serves little to no purpose unless it is in response to personal and unfair attacks. I most often choose not to fall into it simply because it serves to silence healthy communication and disagreement.
Healthy relationships allow for disagreement, but more importantly, allows for growth and an expansion of thought. Ultimately, a diversity of thought is important. I often stay engaged long past the point where others walk away. We may be better off if we start considering where others are coming from while choosing to carefully and thoughtfully considering our own views on things.
Many of the kids and adults that I’ve worked with have some unhealthy and self destructive tendencies and beliefs. It is hard to challenge those tendencies and beliefs when kids and adults don’t accept differences in opinion. As the adult, I choose to set an example of working through differences, listening, challenging, explaining and trying to understand where others are coming from. I don’t always get it right, and I have room to grow. I tend to try to always seek first to understand and then to be understood. Unfortunately, many that I’ve worked with want to be understood before gracing others with a desire to understand.
As A Result
As a result, I work to choose not to be the victim of others, or offended by them. Difference in opinion is healthy. Feeling offended can limit relationships with people who see the world differently. I strive for value, acceptance , and appreciation, too. I value a relationship as long as it supports difference in opinion.
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