In My Face, in My Place, in My Space

“It’s not what I say, it’s what I do.”

“Actions speak louder than words.”

“Practice what you preach.”

We’ve all heard these age-old idioms. They all have the same thing in common – words and actions.

The last few months I have watched with interest, with growing bewilderment and perplexity, and now with concern, the display of words and actions our nation’s freedoms allow.  The hue of the public dialogue is changing.

It’s really been nothing new, per se. In fact, King Solomon wrote centuries ago: “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again, there is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9 NIV) Yet, the loss of compunction to do or say anything we want or feel; the exploitation of our rights, privileges and freedoms to the exclusion of the rights and feelings of others; the even greater loss of manners, civility, and respect, has – in my opinion –  reached a dangerous crescendo.

Yesterday marked the 55th anniversary of the day my husband’s family left their home country, due to the socialistic nature of its new government, to come to the United States to seek the freedoms, privileges, protection, and hope we citizens freely enjoy. Yesterday, I (and I know a good many of you) watched a video of a woman seated on a plane rudely telling the fellow passenger seated next to her that he was “in her space” just because he appeared to have an opposing political viewpoint than she. Yes, she had the freedom to say it but why did she feel the compulsion to actually do so? That’s when this momma’s thinking kicked in. How many times have I had to chastise my children, teach them, punish them, send them to their rooms for saying similar things to their sisters? What’s the difference?

Yes, we have sometimes, not often, had those very arguments: “She’s in my seat.” “Get out of my face!” ”That’s my place.” “She’s in my space.” ”That’s my . . . . “ –  you fill in the blank. If I’ve been privy to hear the genesis of the argument that is about to explode, I’ve done my best to squelch it, dispel it, end it before it takes on an ornery life of its own.

I’ve sought to teach and model to my girls the attributes of respect, gratitude, kindness, honesty, integrity. I’ve tried to instill in them decorum, concern for others, manners. We’ve talked about disagreeing with others respectfully, fairly and politely. They are young women, thus I have tried to promote the qualities of being genteel and ladylike. I want them to be strong and confident, yet refined and considerate.

These qualities don’t diminish them as free-thinking, spirited, assertive, poised members of our family, citizens of our nation or colleagues in their schools, jobs or activities. These qualities enhance them, embolden them, encourage them.

So, how do we successfully lead the way in leading our children to freedom of thought while maintaining respect and integrity of words and actions? We model it: we say it, we teach it, we do it.

If you want your children to be respectful, then show respect to others, to those with different beliefs and viewpoints, to those who may not think, live and act according to your worldview. It doesn’t mean we change our beliefs or stances, but we don’t denigrate theirs. We use the differences to teach our children. To explain the differences – to walk them through the reasons for your positions and reasoning. Teach them to think, to learn, to discern for themselves – all the while doing so respectfully with consideration for the feelings and beliefs of others.

If you want your children to be grateful, then show gratitude for the kindnesses, gifts, blessings and freedoms bestowed on you. Whether given by God, a loved one, a friend, your spouse or children – be grateful. Express thanksgiving. Don’t let the slightest gift or thoughtfulness go unnoticed and unappreciated. Do it audibly or in writing – gratitude isn’t transferred by osmosis.

If you want your children to have integrity, then strive your hardest, no matter the consequences, to live a life of truth, honesty, honor, character and dignity. If we think it is hard to instill this attribute in our children, it is even harder for us to get through days, weeks and months and not jeopardize our own. And when we mess up, admit it to them, apologize, explain and then move ahead. We are all human – learning life’s lessons along the way.

If you want your children to be kind, they need to see, hear and witness your kindnesses – toward them and toward others. We have to show compassion, understanding, support, consideration, benevolence to those around us. Selfishness and harshness, dogmatism and judgment, busyness and idleness, indolence and apathy work against kindness. Kindness takes thought, intentionality, less of self and certainly time and attention. If we are always off on our own pursuits and tangents, kindness suffers.

With freedom comes responsibility. With leadership comes accountability. With free thought and free speech come the obligation to exhibit to our children the inherent benefits to us and duties to others these “inalienable” rights bestow.

We are instructed in Deuteronomy to teach our children about God and His Word by “talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” (11:19).This is also the perfect method for teaching our children everything. Talk it, live it, do it, model it, explain it. Like gratitude, knowledge and civility in word and deed don’t just seep through the skins of our children by osmosis.

No one loves a good public discourse more than I. Everything about me lends itself to this – my nature, my education, my training, my thought processes. My husband and I both have political science degrees. In fact, we both have dual degrees – his, political science and journalism – mine political science and English. We find the political process interesting and exciting. We find words even more so. But I have shaken my head of late as the public dialogue has become increasingly more rude and crude, insensitive and vulgar. It often sounds like a bawdy Shakespearean play – and I’ve wondered – is it for entertainment or enlightenment? For personal aggrandizement or progress? I’ve wondered about this as to all sides, all positions, all participants. And now I must ask, what does the “private” discourse in my home and with my family sound like? Does it teach my children the attributes and character traits I desire to instill in them? Out of the private discourse spews the public. Do I really practice what I preach?

With rhetoric should come respect and responsibility. Our messages should be clear, consistent, backed up by our own examples and actions.

I don’t know a thing about that woman on the plane. But I wonder if she ever put her children in time out or lectured them for getting in one another’s face, defending their own space or declaring their proprietary place over the other. I don’t even know if she has children. If she did – what is her message now? Do her words and actions matter? Do they define, lead, teach, nurture, offer respect? Do mine?

As women, as mothers, as citizens, we need to be extraordinarily cognizant of our words, our actions, our positions – – no matter where we fall on life’s spectrum. We teach and lead by example. Our own rhetoric matters to the ears listening to us in our own homes and families.

There will possibly come a time, maybe it has already arrived, when one of my girls has to literally tell someone to get out of her face, out of her space, out of her place.  How will she convey the message? With respect? With integrity? With kindness?

They have the freedom to decide. Hopefully I’ve guided them well. I hope they feel they can model their responses and actions after the ones I’ve taught and displayed – with determination, strength, respect and kindness.


Thought to Ponder:  Do I seek consistency and integrity, show respect and honor, take responsibility and exhibit kindness in the words and actions I display to and in the presence of my children?  How do I represent and express my thoughts and my beliefs in the public domain? Are they consistent with the words I speak at home?




Comments (4)

  • The scripture comes to mind, Ecclesiastes 5:2 “Let my words be few”. Something for me to ponder!


    • As well as Psalm 19:14! ♥

  • Thank you for sharing your observations, insights, experience and wisdom! EXCELLENT, purely excellent reasoning for all to thoroughly and consistently ponder!

    • Thank you – it is certainly an interesting time!


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