I don’t know why I go to extremes….

If you’ve known me for awhile you’ll know that Billy Joel is one of my favorite musicians.  I remember back in college going to see him from the nosebleed seats and enjoying every minute. It seems like Joel’s words in the song “I go to extremes” is an example for what our culture seems to becoming. The chorus of the song goes like this:

Darling I don’t know why I go to extremes
Too high or too low there ain’t no in-betweens
And if I stand or I fall
It’s all or nothing at all
Darling I don’t know why I go to extremes

I know you’ve recognized it, but so much of our culture is described in this song.  This week our family had a friend who made an abrupt choice.  I can’t really explain the choice, but it was a quick departure from our presence.  With that quick departure it seems all strings have been cut.  I guess it was all or nothing.

This seems to be the way it goes.  There is a limited ability to disagree and stay friends.  I don’t get it… but then I do.  I think it has to do with fear and insecurity mostly.  We don’t think we can be friends with someone with whom we disagree.  At the same time I recently spent a long weekend with a group of friends.  These guys are mature and self assured.  There were a couple of times when there were differing views.  It was interesting and a joy to see grown men disagree honestly and move on.  No walls put up.  No need to win or convince others to move to their side.  And… we had a great time!

Staying with the music theme….I remember a time in my early teens where someone at my church convinced me that a couple of bands that I liked were practicing satanic rituals and I decided to get rid of all of their music.  Today as a person closer to 50 years old I notice that I have bought back the greatest hits of those bands. I know a lot more about what I believe and I have made my decision that the music is OK.  In fact, I really like it, and who knows if they were worshiping Satan!  The music isn’t about Satanic rituals and I certainly am not worshiping Satan by listening to them.  I’m pretty sure that the person at my church cared about me and feared that I’d become a Satan worshiper if I continued to listen.

So… how do we teach our kids and those we lead to hold tight to their values and still have the self confidence and courage to  respect and value the personhood of others by staying in relationship with them?  These things sound simple.  You provide the example for them, right?

First, we need to talk.  When we see people with different opinions in public or on television we need to talk about it in a respectful way.  We need to share with them that people have different beliefs and help them see the intrinsic value of others.  Talking includes avoiding assumptions and asking questions to make sure our messages are being sent and received in the way we intend.  We must stop assuming and always ask to be sure!

Next we need to listen.  Listen to their views and their thoughts.

Finally we have to watch ourselves.  Our kids will have a hard time being more articulate than their parents concerning what they believe and how they treat others.  Leaders must realize they are always being watched and they must be a consistent role model just like parents.

And finally, what we are trying to teach our children?  We need to practice that same acceptance, that same valuing, every day with everyone we meet.