[Week 32 of 52 Weeks to a Better Relationship With Your Child]
If you want to be outraged, you can find a reason
There is always something horrible going on somewhere. In fact, horrible things seem to happen just about everywhere regularly. Many of these things are the result of humans doing things to each other. Does this mean that we should all be constantly outraged?
When children start to become aware of current events in the world, it can be overwhelming. A lot depends on how the influential adults in their lives respond to such things. Children need parents who can both verbally put things in perspective and model a non-reactionary approach to all the bad news.
Part of the challenge is that outrage sells. Another factor is that outrage can be used to manipulate people. Outrage tends to make any accusation more believable and any action justified.
People gravitate toward outrage for the same reason they like a good story – the passion makes them feel alive. Outrage is more tempting than positive feelings because outrage feeds a sense of superiority. It can also provide people with a depth of meaning to their lives that they might otherwise feel lacking.
Why outrage leads to misery
There are certainly some things that are going to happen to us or in our sphere that will provoke legitimate anger or indignation. What we need to teach our children is twofold:
- Feelings may be signals , but they should always be subject to reason and self-control
- People are finite and no one of us mortals can bear all the suffering in the world.
Outrage is bad for your health. It stimulates hormones that are good in an emergency, but will wear a body out if always present in the circulation. Outrage keeps you in state of urgency that distorts priorities, including those for eating and sleeping.
Constant outrage is bad for your relationships. It makes enemies of those who don’t share your outrage. It reduces the chance of good discussion and learning because self-righteous indignation feels better.
In a nutshell, constant outrage is beguiling because it appeals to our baser nature while at the same time masquerading as noble and justified. However, in the end it can only lead to misery, because who can be happy when they are always mad?! Instead, we want our children to have a perspective that gives them hope, as well as fosters peace among all people.
Letting the air out of our outrage
A good place to begin forging a perspective that dispels outrage is to take an honest look at ourselves. We have all done things, accidentally and on purpose, that others could rightly be angry about. We are all limited in our wisdom and ability to rightly discern a conflict that does not involve us. We all make mistakes fairly regularly in word and deed, though we sometimes don’t realize it or admit it until later.
A historical perspective can be useful because it highlights what should be expected from people in general. Human fighting, stealing, and basic meanness are not occasional nor anomalous. It doesn’t make much sense to be outraged (shocked, which is part of outrage) by the inevitable.
Why hope is important
Which brings us to the need for hope. We don’t want to exchange outrage for despair. Unfortunately, it is pretty clear we cannot put our hope in people. Each generation seems to have all the same flaws as the last.
My family has a solid hope in the God-Creator of the universe and his plans for the future, but I know some people don’t. If you don’t have a real hope, a foundational hope, of what is going to be a good outcome, then it’s much harder to deal with this kind of outrage.
The bottom line, children need a hope in life that undergirds their experiences of love and happiness. Otherwise, these positive elements tend to crumble under the weight of the trouble in the world.
Breaking the outrage habit
It is always easier to overcome bad habits, such as constant outrage, if we are replacing them with good ones. Thinking in positive terms of what can be and what should be done can help protect your children from the constant outrage.
It is positive to feel compassion and help others, as opposed to fueling vindictiveness. It is positive to take actions we actually can personally take, rather than try to force others to do what we think they should. It is positive to set good priorities and be responsible, instead of letting outrage impulses jerk you around.
Outrage versus peace
There are those who make a living fueling outrage. Teach your children that they don’t need to be controlled by such people. Teach your children that world peace begins in their own hearts and with their own relationships.