Stepping Back In
Many of you know that I left Facebook recently. In short, it was because I came dangerously close to becoming one of the people that I believe have hurt this country—the angry, divisive, and intolerant. I almost posted several glaring responses, tearing down the illogical musings of some of my family and friends.
But what purpose would that serve? It would show me to be inconsistent with what I believe: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs…get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.” -Eph. 4: 29
If I would’ve hit “post,” it would have created walls between me and the people I most need connection with—those that I don’t understand.
You see, I am a teacher, so knowledge and understanding are part of my profession. First, I have to know the subject matter, and second, I have to understand the student so I can assess the needs and engage them with the appropriate learning style. They are the basics for learning and growing together in a classroom. And believe me, I learn every day from my students. Want to know where things have gone wrong with our country? Ask a teacher.
Before you can address knowledge, you have to understand a few things about learning. Taken from psychologist Abraham Maslow, the above illustrates the hierarchy of needs. Simply put, you cannot reach the top of the hierarchy without the proper foundation. If people are lacking clean air to breath, food, water, shelter, sleep etc. (red), they will not have adequate health for employment, family and social ability (orange). Without employment, family and a sense of connection (yellow), they will not be confident enough to respect others, achieve, or become a unique individual with thoughts of their own. So you can forget the purple tip of the triangle-the part our nation’s mottos prescribe with “pursuit of happiness, and liberty and justice for all”- if you have not laid the foundation on which they are built.
This is why legislating morality, acceptance, or compassion just does not work. The foundation has not been built. It’s like teaching one year olds how to jump hurdles. First, they have to have stability in their steps before we can expect them to jump. But steps are what teaching is all about. Teachers break down difficult processes into steps, and create learning adventures that even the forlorn and fearful student are willing to take.
Socrates, the Greek philosopher, had a method of teaching which involved a series of questions to stimulate curiosity. It’s a great way to open discussion and get at the heart of knowledge. So will you take a journey with me? Let’s begin at the beginning and analyze what I call the Pows and Wows of our present national situation. A pow is a blow to the gut, a place where we need improvement. A wow is the place where we are showing growth and vitality.
Since we are called to build each other up, let’s begin at the base—physiological needs. My questions for today are: Are you getting enough sleep, food, water, shelter, clothing, and clean air for growth? If you are not, how is that lack affecting the safety and security of your life? Which of these are your wows? If you are wowing in all of these, take a look at those around you. Could their fears, anger, blame, bitterness and rage be because of a lack of these basics? What can we do to build others up according to their needs as Ephesians describes? Where can we be the instruments for wows instead of pows? Just a simple phone call, encouraging word, or offer of food or childcare can make a difference in someone’s life.
Now, I’m not interested in getting into a political discussion at this time about who deserves what, or who is being taken advantage of. We are not ready for that yet. I believe in the classroom of American life right now, we need some sound teaching in educational psychology (hierarchy of needs) and classroom management (respect, listening, discipline) before we can handle the heavy issues of morality, acceptance and human potential.
So if you will journey with me, I’d like to walk through this hierarchy step by step. I’d like it if you could pose respectful questions and responses, so we can evaluate the pows and wows of our lives and how we can ensure that most of us are reaching our full potential and engaged with meaning and purpose for the greater good. It may take a few weeks, but I’d love to walk and talk with you as we learn from each other’s perspectives. Will you journey with me?