Being able to be true to ones self, and allowing ourselves to follow our hearts, is sometimes a harder task than it seems. We want to treat others with kindness and compassion. We have the innate ability to tell right from wrong….Good from evil. Our hearts and our minds are capable of differentiating between the two.
Starting at a young age, we choose whether or not to listen to those signals. Our internal gauges give us the answers, but our environment begins to intervene.
How we look at other people is shaped by the people around us. Initially, it is our parents that we watch so closely. Do they treat people who are “different”, in a mean way? Do they point, laugh, and poke fun of others around them? Are they judgemental, biased, and prejudiced in some fashion?
As we watch the actions of our elders, we still have insight into whether its wrong or right. We know whether something that is said by our parent was mean spirited or cruel. Still, we learn from it…we are shaped by it. We either decide to take their same path, do the complete opposite, or take a small part of what they have to offer, while attempting to create our own path.
This parental part of our environment however, is not ALWAYS, and is less likely to be, the reason we stop listening to our internal selves.
PEERS are the greatest and the worst people to have in our environment. From the time we are school aged, and well into our adult lives, we are shaped by our peers. Peer pressure is a term used to describe the pressure on young kids and teenagers, to do something they don't necessarily want to do. However, peer pressure occurs throughout our entire lives. It's what makes us choose to go against our own better judgement. The consequence of it, often makes us feel small and ashamed.
Still, the reward of having people like us, is sometimes a greater reward than the gratification of knowing we listened to our heart, and did the right thing. So we tease people that are different than us, we are cruel to people that are more unfortunate, and we laugh at the ones that our peers laugh at. We often times destroy the life of another, with constant ridicule, just to make ourselves feel liked.
“If we are laughing at someone else, then they aren't laughing at me”. Its a common thought process amongst us all. We feel better about ourselves when we are able to put someone else down.
…….Or do we?
Even with the encouragement of our peers, and even though we are feeling liked, we feel that guilt…that piece of ourselves that says “This isn't right”. We look at that person, and often feel sorry for what we've done, but it still doesn't outweigh the environmental gratification…..so we repeat the pattern over and over, until we become the ones that guide our youth.
As an adult, I try to be kind to everyone. But….like everyone else, I falter. I still sometimes ignore my inner workings, and I still get gratification from laughing along with others. It's an endless battle. I often wonder what my own children see.
Recently, my 11 year old daughter sparked up a conversation with me. This is becoming more rare, as she is becoming so “grown up” and doesn't have time for her boring old mom. However, it was clear she was bothered by something.
She asked me how you know if someone is your true friend.
I was speechless, while I pondered her question……Its a hard question to answer.
She went on, before I could even come up with a decent response. She told me that she doesn't like any of her friends this year. She thinks they're mean, and that they don't care about anyone's feelings. She felt pulled in different directions, because the ones that she does like, are being pulled in, by the ones that are unkind. She noticed that the friends she has had in the past were changing, and she no longer wanted to be surrounded by them.
My mouth dropped to the floor, and I admit tears welled up in my eyes for a second.
She went on….
She told me that she sits with a disabled boy at lunch. She said that he's nice, but just different. For now, her friends sit with her, constantly teasing the boy, and asking her why “he's” sitting at their table. She feels hurt by her friends, and was now questioning if they were true friends.
Honestly, it was hard for me to respond to this child…..this daughter of mine who is an amazing soul! She was listening to her internal self, and had little time for the environment, that was attempting to shape her outwardly. This is something that I didnt teach, but something that I would like to get credit for creating.
The best advice I had to give her, was for her to ask her friends to stop making fun of the boy in front of her. If they refuse to do so, they would be disrespecting her, and they were clearly not her friend. She seemed content with my answer, but I also knew, that she was aware of the answer, before I gave it.
As she enters into the most difficult part of her preteen/teen years, I hope she holds tight to this. She has an amazing gift.
Sometimes, I truly believe that parents aren't always shaping their child. Instead, the child shapes them.