Sticks and Stones….

A recent occurrence (that was not directed at me but rather at someone whom I greatly respect) has me thinking about the way we treat each other.

In a world where freedom of speech reigns and we all, in some ways, hide behind our online persona, it is crucially important that from time to time, we sit back and remember that at the crux of things, we are all just human beings and we all have feelings. I am all for the right to speak your mind and the right to hold and express personal opinions but I also believe that we have lost a certain level of decorum in our society and have forgotten the sting, hurt and damage that can arise from the spoken or written word.

When someone stands up and speaks his or her opinion (either verbally or in writing – online or otherwise) they are showing bravery in not being afraid to put themselves on the line for their beliefs. If you disagree with a stated opinion, instigating thoughtful, respectful and provocative conversation is great. It can present different perspectives and can shed some light on the topic and allow everyone to be involved in a dialogue that can create a fantastic learning opportunity for all involved. However, a problem arises when the discussion shifts focus from the topic at hand towards the individuals involved. Different opinions are necessary and fantastic and it’s important to debate them and explain why we stand behind the position that we do. But in my opinion, there is no place within a debate for name-calling and personal attacks. Stick to the topic at hand and hold yourself to a higher standard than to take the easy way out and get personal. Every time I see or hear someone going on a personal attack, I assume they lack knowledge of the topic at hand and have gotten themselves into a discussion that is far over their head. Please keep in mind that it does not lend credibility to your arguments if you start attacking on a personal level.

Sticks and stones may break your bones but words and names can and do hurt people as well. Let’s all expect more from ourselves and those around us and demand that any discussion and engagement be approached from a position of dignity and respect. And from that ground, let’s educate each other on different sides of a discussion and participate in rigorous and intelligent debate. Let’s continue to cause each other to re-think our own positions, respectfully consider the other side, and defend where we stand with some intelligence and grace.

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