Having five kids, it can be pretty difficult to maintain the same expectations for all of them. In fact, I know I expect too much of my two oldest at times. They are told to be leaders, to be a good example, and to help out. Probably more than the youngest three.
My oldest, however, has really taken his role seriously. Occasionally, especially lately, we have to remind him that although he is supposed to be a leader, he is not the authority figure. He has, in the past, taken it upon himself to dispense punishments to the younger kids for not following his instruction. That line of leadership and authoritative position is so thin at times that he crosses it without knowing. Other times, the idea of being the authoritative voice is so heady that he takes it and runs. Knowing the consequences for his own actions, he chooses to hand out punishment that he has no business doing.
This is a tough lesson for a child to learn, but it is so important. Even when we don’t agree with someone, even when someone “breaks the rules” or does something we don’t agree with, if we are not in a position of authority, we cannot punish the offender.
We are seeing people who have never learned this lesson in action in today’s culture. I’ve heard so often the phrase, “I’m not bossy. I have leadership skills.” Especially when referring to little girls. We stopped telling these children that there is indeed a big difference in leading and forcefully taking authority that doesn’t belong to them. We have stopped pointing them to the leadership of the Bible. Jesus was a leader. He led hundreds and thousands. He was not bossy. He was a servant. He invested in people. He spoke Truth. He compelled people to follow Him by His love.
Instead of teaching our kids how to be servant leaders, we allow our kids to think that the playground game of boss – essentially when someone doesn’t do what you tell them to or even think like you do, you punish them and even shun them – is how a leader should act. And they (the boss) should be the ones to dole out the punishment. We develop bullies at an early age by not teaching proper authority, respect for others, selflessness, and love. The golden rule is a rote to be memorized instead of the example to be acted out. Leadership has become “do as I say or else”, instead of “do as I do”.
We are seeing now that some of those playground bosses have grown up, and anyone who disagrees with them is being punished. Not only are they calling the offenders out for whatever action or belief they deem a crime, but they are also ruining lives and taking away livelihoods. In the name of “unity” they take the proverbial criminal to the public square to flog and shun them. They call for all their followers to do the same, and I dare say most do, lest they be accused of being on the “wrong side”. They are not only shunning random people, either. These are former friends and allies.
Now, the ones doling out punishment do so in the name of “justice” and “accountability”. They claim they are not “cancelling” offenders, but holding them accountable. They cannot stand idly by when their former friend, who they are deeply ashamed of and feel betrayed by, is not called out.
Just because I like actual definitions and not cultural ones, the word accountability has to do with authority. Leaders, government, even oneself. But NOT random people on the internet trying to destroy others’ lives because they deem them the enemy. These random keyboard warriors have no actual authority to hold anyone accountable, even though they have been self appointed moral monitors.
While writing this, I actually looked up “cancel culture” and stumbled upon a video of President Obama in November 2019. I honestly never thought I would quote President Obama on wokeness or cancel culture, but here we are.
“This idea of purity and you’re never compromised and you’re always politically ‘woke’ and all that stuff. You should get over that quickly. The world is messy, there are ambiguities. People who do really good stuff have flaws. People who you are fighting may love their kids. And share certain things with you.” He went on to say that “there is this sense that the way of making change is to be as judgmental as possible about other people…that’s not activism. That’s not bringing about change. If all you’re doing is casting stones, you’re probably not going to get that far.”
The reminder that the person on the other side of the debate or screen or idea is an image bearer of Christ. The businesses that are being boycotted, and in some cases harassed and doxed, in the name of “wokeness” and anti-racism are incomes that put food on the table so they can feed their children. That is not activism. That is a bully mentality. That is an adult throwing a fit.
The golden rule has obviously been forgotten in so many circumstances, “Do unto others what you’d have them do unto you.” The idea that people disagree but can still be civil are thrown by the wayside.
If we are Christians, our standard is so much higher. Our mandate to speak Truth in Love while remembering that our fight is not against “flesh and blood” is so important, especially in this current day. Our challenge is to look at everything through a biblical lens, and not bow to cultural untruths and norms for the sake of peace.
I will end this super long and rambling thought with this. Sister, don’t stop. I know it is so easy to be deceived by culture. It is weary work doing good and telling truth in love. It is hard work.