Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Gift of Fear


Should I post on how I still can't make or receive calls in my home, or my office, or on the way from my office to the kids' school....which is kind of why I wanted a cell phone in the first place, but how I'm enjoying the texting and apps, and cool stuff like that?

Or should I post on our whirlwind Thanksgiving trip that will include 3 different sleeping locations? Read: schlepping in and out of three different houses, plus lots of driving, plus very little eating on the part of my very picky eater. Unless you count Taco Bell, which isn't very Thanksgiving-y. On the positive side: It'll be much easier to make a Run for the Border using the GPS on my phone-less phone.

What I really want to post about today is EVIL. I just can't get it out of my mind. You see, I've been learning more and more about evil acts that took place in my close-knit community a few years ago and how the repercussions go on and on. I'm thinking about how lives were ruined, families splintered, innocence lost.

And I'm considering how although we can't eradicate evil, we can EXPOSE it. And I'm wondering if, when faced with evil, I'm strong enough to do that, and whether my kids are, too.

You see, although evil is cunning and quite capable of deceiving everyone around it, I wonder how often we ignore subtle signs, still small voices inside us--the hair that pricks up on the back of our necks, and ALLOW evil to prosper in our midst. I'm thinking about how sometimes we choose silence, image, privacy, and propriety when we should choose to get messy and loud and obnoxious.

Let me give you an example. When I taught school a million years ago, a student brought a gun into my classroom. This was pre-Columbine, so it felt like a whole different world than the one we live in today. But two brave students felt fearful enough, and brave enough, to tell me about the gun. Did I shout it from the rooftops, informing the community what had happened-- exposing the evil to its fullest?

No. I turned the kid in to the school, and he was expelled, but I never discussed it with the wider community because I didn't want the school I loved so much to look bad. I'm not even sure I told Tom. A few years later I was at a party and the guy was there, free as a bird, drinking a beer, and I felt sick with myself for not exposing him more than I did.

Another time a dear friend put one of my kids in a very dangerous situation because she was trying to protect her family's image at the expense of my child's safety.

I also wonder about my kids' ability to deal with evil. You see, I've spent a decade telling them to be polite, not make waves, go with the flow-- especially the one to whom little things have always seemed like such HUGE things. I did not want them to turn into the demanding kids I seem to attract like a magnet. The ones who rifle through my cupboards, tell me my house is dirty, and let me know of every injustice, real or perceived, they face.

But now, I've ended up with kids who are so inward they don't want to knock on the neighbors' doors to see if they can play. So inward they don't tell me what's on their minds and hearts unless it's bedtime, in the dark, and I pry. A lot. I fear that this inwardness will be a perfect breeding ground for keeping secrets and hurts that need to be exposed to the light.

I believe there are times to go AGAINST the flow. To stand up. To have a voice and say, "NO! That's NOT okay!" and I wonder if my kids have that in them. I do know one of them is perfectly capable of saying, "NO!" to certain writing assignments, but that is not what I'm talking about.

I've tried hard to get my high-strung kids to go along with authority, but I don't want them to when people in power over them are wrong, or dangerous, or evil.

Have you read the book, "The Gift of Fear?" I haven't, but I have seen the Dateline/20-20 shows about the importance of instinct, and of acting on it even if it seems weird or impolite.

So, I'm not sure where I'm going with this except to challenge us to be vigilant. And brave. And tenacious. And obnoxious if necessary. And to talk to each other, even if it's awkward. To speak up if something seems "off."

Because so much depends on that.


Gretchen said...

You bring up such a great topic here Anna.

I think it goes beyond not being afraid to speak up. I think it's such an important life lesson for kids to know that they can speak up in a tactful, respectful way. That they can have their voice heard and still be respected and keep their integrity in tact.

We live in a world now where people often speak up in loud, obnoxious ways, and their credibility just goes right out the window. The flip side of that is people who don't speak up and their views are trampled. Often, people with valid, articulate opinions are completely obliterated by loudmouths whose opinions are nothing more than a slew of rude comments and name-calling.

My point is this: In addition to teaching our kids that they should speak up, we need to tell them HOW to speak up. And we need to tell them to recognize sin but be careful about chastizing and instead correct with love and forgiveness. Too many people see sin and are quick to point fingers and criticize but do nothing to help the person recover from their sin. (not saying you do that. I'm saying I see a lot of it and it's frustrating.)

Nichole@40daysof said...

Wow! What a interesting conundrum. I can't wait to read the other comments.

Anonymous said...

I wonder what happened where you live. It sounds quite traumatic. Just like your TG plans. Hang in there, Anna. And remember, EVIL is just LIVE spelled backwards. Ha ha? No?


Rachel said...

ABC has a wonderful news series called What Would You Do. It uses hidden cameras to film experiments in social psychology where actors portray individuals in danger, and whether by-standers will get involved. Scenarios have been as diverse as abusive spouses in public, domineering or drunk parents interacting with their children, overly-affectionate teachers and tutors, racial and ethnic slurs and discrimination, and sleazy bar hoppers taking advantage of inebriated people. I think it might be a good way to start a dialog with your children and it might be a good tool to show them when it's right to stand up for someone else and to intervene. Just watching the show gives me hope in others--that there are people out there who will stand up to bullies--and gives me courage to stand up when things aren't right. Some of the segments might be a bit too...worldly...for some kids, though. Since most of the segments are online, you could filter out those that are most relevant to what you want to teach your kids.

kim jackson said...


Heidi said...

I go through that with my kids - trying to teach them about when to speak up and when to ho-hum along. It's tough and there's a fine line. It's a balancing act that I don't think my kids are totally capable of, yet. I barely understand it.

I'm with you on this. It is important to say something, anything when something is off. And to listen to that thing inside you that says it is off. Not to push it aside because of politeness and an unwillingness to rock the boat. I don't know what I'm trying to say except that I hear you and I GET this!

Anonymous said...

It's not that I havent been reading lately... It's just that I have been too busy to put together some thoughts to respond to a couple of you great posts.
This is another wonderful post that makes me really, REALLY wish that I lived close by... and had time to take you to lunch very often so we could brainstorm more ideas about how to save the world ... or I could just be in your bible study :)
I hope that you have had a wonderful Thanksgiving day... with the joy of sharing with family and friends outweighs the trials of traveling.

In other new... my sister is moving back to NoVa so maybe I'll get to see you next time I come to town.

Mrs4444 said...

Girls, especially, are raised to not make waves. I, too, hope I've taught my daughter to be assertive, but you just never know.

This also makes me think about the time that I ignored the gift of fear (I was 16 weeks pregnant with Kyle and kept ignoring the nagging fear about spotting.) When I finally went to the doctor, she said, "Honey, you're in labor!" Since that day, I don't ignore my inner voice.

Brenda Susan said...

I too, am not good at speaking up. But I have raised 2 sons and one is great at it and the other is not. Personality also plays a part in how our kids turn out. Don't take it all on yourself.
I am sure trying not to! Ha!

Unknown said...

I read "The Gift of Fear" a few years ago. It is a challenging, but worthwhile read. The book goes beyond telling you to trust your fear instinct - it spells out the ways that predators typically approach their victims, cultivate relationships, etc. It is hard to read because the author uses real-life cases as examples, and you cannot help but ache for the families involved. However, I believe that you end up feeling more empowered to spot potential threats to your own family. In fact, your post has inspired me to read it again!