When we try to improve on something, there will be people who think it’s not improved enough and people who liked it the old way. There’s no fault in that. But I’m feeling the need to speak to something that has been clawing at me: our unabashed, unapologetic need to point out the wrong in everything.  And, what are we sharing with and teaching our children in the process?

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I participated in the Ice Bucket Challenge and was excited about the attention and funding that flowed from the silliness for ALS. My mother’s best friend died of the disease and it’s a disease that there’s no cure for, is often misunderstood and gets very little press or media attention. I thought the idea was brilliant! It hit people right where their attention span is on social media and it accomplished its goal tenfold. It brought people together, made people reach out to old friends, gave us a sense of togetherness for a good cause, etc. Then, I started seeing backlash articles, comments on social media all poo-pooing the challenge. The tone was “you guys think you’re doing something good but you’re doing it all wrong.” I couldn’t fathom how raising $80 mil in 3 weeks for a devastating disease could be faced with such criticism.

  • “slacktivism”
  • elitist act of water wasting (Matt Damon’s challenge responded to that)
  • other charities that affect more people (heart disease, diabetes, etc).
  • the money isn’t going to flow in next year like this

Are all of these criticisms incorrect? Maybe, maybe not. I do admit that there are many other charities in need of funding and I agree that we should be conscientious about water use when there is so much drought. There are shortages of water in numerous places across the globe, we should be sending water there, not pouring it over our heads. But are the people criticizing the water wasting doing something about it?
But can’t we just for one little second enjoy the success of this?

Because of this challenge, the ALS Association raised almost $80 million in the same time frame that it raised $2.5 million last year. That’s ASTOUNDING! It’s incredible and has brought so much joy and hope to those suffering from ALS and their loved ones. (I’m not making this up)

It was the balloon-deflating that really bothered me and I’m not sure why it bugged me so much. I’m a huge believer in freedom of thought and expression. Everyone has opinions, everyone has priorities. There are many of us that would like to solve ALL of the world’s problems at once. But I kept asking myself, even if there are flaws, why can’t we allow ourselves to praise the small victories?

Maybe the ice bucket challenge is a bad example. This one may not be a better one, but here goes…the date rape drug nail polish. Just yesterday, someone said to me “what a horrible idea, it’s  capitalism at its worst, and it’s just reinforcing the notion of rape. Women shouldn’t have to have the onus on them to prevent rape, why aren’t we spending our time and money working on preventing men from committing rape instead of finding silly little props for women to prevent it.” Very good points, but I responded with “I absolutely agree that it shouldn’t even exist as a concern for women but wouldn’t it be a reasonable idea to take advantage of the technology that could help protect yourself? I don’t think I should be worried about a car crashing into me but I still wear my seat belt. And what about the inventors, 4 college-aged men. Doesn’t that say something about progress?” My response was not well received.

A few hours later, I went onto FB and read some “gratitude posts” that are going around. Another fantastic idea, I think we need to remind ourselves from time to time about the positive aspects of our everyday world and how lucky we are to be us. However, I have noticed quite a few posts that include “I’m grateful for XYZ because it helps me deal with this crappy world where everyone else sucks.” From Facebook, I went to an online news source that invites comments. The negative, trolling, personal-attacking comments were longer than the stories.

I feel like we’re missing the point in the freedom of ideas and thought. Is this how we talk to each other in person in a society? We’re very sensitive to being judged ourselves but have no reservations about how critical we can be to other people’s creative solutions or shortcomings. Opinions and critiques are absolutely necessary. But I just think we have turned our ability and accessibility to critique openly more into a snarky-bitchfest.

But that is how we speak to ourselves, isn’t it. Aren’t we far more critical of ourselves for the 2 items (or 15 in my case) that are left unaccomplished on our To-Do list at the end of the day vs. congratulatory for the 25 things we did successfully complete?

One negative thing can overtake all of the good.

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I just think it’s worth trying to make some changes in how we respond. There’s a big difference between:

“yeah, blah blah blah I hear your idea and I think it sucks, you’re such an idiot”
“well, I see your idea and it may be a reasonable short term solution however maybe it’s worth considering some other factors or suggestions for a more effective long-term solution.”

I feel that we enjoy the “your idea sucks” response so much better.

My big question here is: Is it simply human nature to find the errors and shortcomings rather than praising the positive impact? Are we afraid that praising the small successes will lead to some “false boosterism”? Are we sometimes confusing constructive feedback with non-constructive criticism?

It’s our initial response to think “wow that sounds stupid”. But what if we stopped and said, how would I communicate this if I wanted to have some element of kindness?

Or better yet, how should I speak my mind and share my thoughts if I was speaking to my child?

If we grow as a society by allowing innovation and creativity, how much do we stunt our own growth by our negativity?

What will we pass along to our children?


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