Healing hurts can help
Neal H. Mayerson, Ph.D., President
- Cincinnati.com, December 18, 2012
At the root of much human malevolence is hurt. Injury evokes striking out at the source of the injury. Guns are tools available for striking out, but by no means the only or even primary ones.
So, where should our public discourse on the horrific recent killings in Connecticut focus? Should we focus on controlling access to guns? While certainly relevant, it does not get to the heart of the matter, which is how to create cultures and social institutions that are less hurtful to people who are “different”. If guns somehow disappeared, and the recent killing spree was limited to one or a few knifings, or poisonings would we consider it less tragic?
The fact is that we now have considerable knowledge about how to create cultures and environments that are much better at actually celebrating difference as opposed to demonizing it. Let me share a recent quote from a parent in a 4th grade classroom where the teacher taught the value of character strengths www.viacharacter.org. “The kids can appreciate each other more and instead of being critical and teasing and being hurtful to one another they are able to build each other up more and see beyond something that may be a little quirky or different than themselves to see strengths that can have value to others in the classroom” ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wZYveRLtXXY ). Deliberate efforts to educate one another about what’s best in each of us and to create organizations that focus on what’s best in each of us can attenuate both the frequency and intensity of hurts that we inflict on one another. Less hurt, less striking out – physically (with fists, or guns, or whatever tools of violence) and psychologically (demeaning, disrespectful, harsh behavior).
I am not talking about squishy, touchy-feely psychological theory, but about facts. I am not talking about pie-in the sky impractical solutions but established methods. We can reduce violence by creating relationships, organizations, and cultures which cultivate what’s best in human beings – our strengths of character.
It is up to us to clean up politics
Neal Mayerson, Ph.D., President
- Cincinnati Enquirer, Editorial, September 21, 2012
We are embarking on the season of character assassination. In the remaining weeks of the campaign we will see the candidates try to impugn each other’s character. They understand voters rely on perceptions of character when marking their ballots. As they go about trying to manipulate our perceptions, we should keep a few things in mind.
First, they will try to whip up our emotions to muffle the voice of reason that speaks within each of us. But reason is exactly what we need as we go about assessing someone’s character.
Second, none of us wish to be defined by our worst moments, but instead understand that character is measured on balance. It is a trend, not a particular event. None of us possess our character strengths to perfection. While we may be of upstanding character, we all have our moments when our judgment faltered. The fact that each of us has lied in the course of our lives does not make us all liars. The campaigns however will dig into each other’s histories and spotlight negative incidents that push emotional buttons.
If we, as a populace, don’t allow ourselves to fall for these manipulative tactics, we may, over time, find that politicians become less manipulative.
It is up to us to clean up politics. Politicians fight dirty because we condone it and even demand it. They believe we will punish them if they take the high road and compete on merits. We expect our candidates to prove their mettle by pushing them into the fighting ring to watch them pummel each other, no holds barred. We need to ignore the obsessive media coverage of the upcoming character bloodbath.
And when defining character, let’s move beyond simplistic notions of “good” and “bad” to a more dimensional understanding that character occurs in degrees and takes many forms – wisdom, humanity, justice, temperance, courage and transcendence.
As we judge the candidates’ character strengths let’s apply the Golden Rule and assess them in the same way as we would want others to assess our own character. If we elevate the conversation on character, the media and candidates will follow.