My Dear Girls,
Last night was the 2016 presidential election. There are LOTS of opinions – with varying degrees of tact – floating around online in my social networks. Here are a few thoughts I wanted to share with you while they are still on my mind, in no particular order:
- As an American, you have a great honor and privilege in your RIGHT to vote for your leaders. Whether or not you like the outcome of any election, never take that privilege for granted, and fulfill every opportunity you have to exercise your right as an informed voter. Many men and women in our great military served and died to uphold that right for you; don’t waste it.
- Be ever grateful to live in a land of MANY freedoms and privileges! Among the greatest of our freedoms include religion, speech, and bearing arms. In many countries, women are considered second-class citizens who cannot vote nor attend school. In other countries, people are stuck in a caste system, with no hopes of moving beyond their lot in life, and/or experiencing extreme, desolate poverty. In other countries, unstable, cruel governments, war, and fear are a way of life. Be proud to be an American. Don’t forget that many of the “problems” we complain about here are first-world problems indeed.
- Be inspired to live in a land of opportunity. Both dominant-party candidates in yesterday’s election held historical implications – one was a woman and the other came from a business, rather than traditional political or military, background. There were several other candidates in both parties’ primaries from varied ethnic and career backgrounds. With either outcome, history would be made. Even for those, like myself, who did not ardently support either candidate, the prospect of historical implications for our democracy is exciting to see unfold.
- Don’t let fear be a driving force in any decision you make or response to any outcome you are dealt. Yes, I understand this is easier said than done. But, we thankfully serve a God who “causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” (Romans 8:28). For good reason, the Bible tells us no less than 365 times to fear not. Rest assured in Jesus’ words to “have peace” and “take heart” in times of trouble, for “[He has] overcome the world!” (John 16:33, my paraphrase). Christians should rejoice that our ultimate hope isn’t found in anything this world has to offer, including rulers.
- Think for yourself. Man, this is a big one! If your dad and I, or your teachers, don’t teach you another thing in this life apart from your faith, I hope you learn to respect others and think for yourself. Don’t just follow the crowd or believe what you are “supposed to” or what’s “in” with your tribe. Take the initiative to research information from all sides, and use your intelligence and values to prayerfully discern what is good and True. Don’t take for granted what someone else says to be true; look it up for yourself. Be discerning; consider the source and any potential biases when reading anything, in print or online (I am continually amazed at how many otherwise intelligent adults seem to believe anything they read). In politics, my parents taught me not to be a straight-ticket voter, but “for the person” – to think about whom I vote for and why. My parents, grandparents, and the church I grew up in also encouraged me to read and study the Bible for myself, for which I am eternally grateful. Surround yourself with people you respect and consider wise, and heed advice from your elders, but at the end of the day, have the courage and confidence to make your own informed decisions – even if it means going against the grain.
- You will not agree with everyone; the key is to learn to disagree well. To disagree, or sometimes to “agree to disagree” is ok, and I daresay GOOD! I expect you to have some points of political disagreement with your dad and I as you get older – because it will demonstrate your ability to think for yourself. Your dad and I, while agreeing on the major points, have slight points of disagreement with each other as well. I want to implore you to disagree WELL. This often means holding your tongue, listening before and after you speak, and trying to see all sides. You don’t have to agree with all sides, but it helps greatly to consider where another person is coming from. Your dad really likes this quote by Mark Twain: “Whenever you find yourself on the side of majority, it’s time to pause and reflect.” You may need to stay there, or you may not – but at least think about it. I would encourage you to seek out friendships with people who are both like-minded and differently-minded from you, and learn to share with and learn from them in a tactful, respectful manner. Who knows – you just might learn something, and so might they. But you’ll never have the opportunity if you isolate yourself among people who only think exactly like you do.
- Social media is not the best platform to voice disagreements or vent opinions. Ever. A face-to-face conversation, with love, respect, and tact at the forefront, will always win. Just trust me on this one. In teacher workshops on using social media for professional networking, I often liken posting on social media to shouting a statement in a public forum. How many people would dare to read aloud some of the vehement phrases they so freely type? Some adults especially struggle with this, and I often wonder what our actions are teaching the next generation. I also wonder what the stats are on a social media post actually changing someone’s mind – not promising, I would assume. If you don’t know what to say, the best answer is often nothing – or at least prayerfully consider the implications or potential misinterpretations of anything you consider posting. And when you do choose to speak, do so thoughtfully and diplomatically.
- Be the change; be the good. If you don’t like something, resist the ever-present temptation to complain about it, but instead, devise a way to become part of the solution. Research the issues. Speak out with an informed, diplomatic, strong voice. Become involved with a non-profit or charitable organization, or start your own! Find ways to serve, to lead, to inspire others to hope and change. Do what you can, where you are, with what you have.
- Remember who you are. As Christians, you are His; a representative of Christ; the “light of the world;” “a city on a hill” (Matthew 5:14). Don’t take that charge lightly. Others are looking to us. Show love, grace, kindness, and compassion to a greater extent than is expected or deserved. Be very careful how you treat others, and how you use your words. Read Proverbs and James for more on the power of the tongue. You are also part of a family line of hard-working people who strive to treat others with love, kindness, respect, and tact, through both our words and actions. Admire and continue that legacy.
- Learn about history, and develop a global mindset. Spend time learning about the history of our great country, as well as your personal family history. Know who you are, and be proud of your heritage. In addition, take every opportunity to travel – to see the world and interact with others from different cultures. Travel has abilities to open your mind beyond anything you could ever learn in a classroom. It’s also good to realize that you’re not as important as you may think; there is a big, wide world beyond the U.S.A. and our problems – both real and imagined. Seek ways to see the world and to change your world – from your own family/home to your community to abroad – one small step at a time.
I guess that pretty much sums it up. I know you’ll both make me so proud, as you already do.