There’s a new list (read: harsh edict) floating around Facebook, and it’s being touted as a “must-read” for every teacher and parent, particularly those of teenagers. While I’ll concede right up front that some of these are true, the entire list is steeped in negativity. It is cold and uncaring, and sounds as though it were written in anger. Honestly, lists like this kind of baffle me. I assume the goal is supposed to be to change one’s behavior…. but if life is really as terrible as this describes, what exactly would be the incentive to do so?
Here is the original list, along with my response:
1. You WILL NOT be rewarded for bad behavior.
You shouldn’t do anything, good or bad, for extrinsic rewards. Rather, I want you to do things because they align with your own sense of right or wrong, good or bad. While you may not be rewarded for certain decisions, you are a human and you are allowed to make mistakes. You will still be loved and accepted, unconditionally.
2. Being told “No” is a part of life. GET OVER IT.
Being told “no” is unfortunately a lesson that life will teach us all at some point or another. Life does this all on its own, so I will never manufacture a “no” for the sole purpose of driving the point home. Don’t ever let life’s “no’s” define you, either. Because you know what? Life will tell you “yes” sometimes too.
3. You are free to make your choice, you ARE NOT free of the consequences.
This is another one that life will in fact teach us on its own. Consequences for our actions are one of life’s big teachers, to be sure. Our job isn’t to be threatened by them, but to trust them, and to empower ourselves to learn from them.
4. Life IS NOT fair.
(This seems as good a time as any to point out that excessive use of caps and underlines doesn’t exactly command respect. Instead it conveys anger and insecurity)
Yes, sometimes life really doesn’t feel fair. And when that happens, it’s a time to be mad if you need to (you’re allowed to be mad!), regroup and move on. And when life isn’t fair for one of your friends or loved ones? Be their soft spot to land on, and their constant port in the ever changing world.
5. You are not the boss.
Not the boss of who? Yourself? Damn skippy you’re the boss!! Personal autonomy is one of the most important gifts we have in this life. You make your decisions. You forge your path. You choose what kind of person you will be. No matter what a day may be, it begins and ends with you being your own boss.
6. The world does not revolve around you.
The world doesn’t revolve around any of us. Or rather, the world revolves around all of us, working together…. which is never going to happen if we’re constantly shaming and demoralizing each other with angry “reality checks.”
7. Respect is EARNED, it is NOT just given.
I actually think it’s the opposite. I think respect should be the default. Respect should be given freely and without condition. People will show us if they don’t deserve it.
8. The world owes you NOTHING. Work for it.
Hard work is wonderful. So is being kind, to yourself and to others. So is acting with integrity, and decency, and self-respect. Who does or does not owe you anything is irrelevant.
9. Fits and tantrums will get you NOTHING. Stop wasting your time.
This made me chuckle a little bit in its irony. The entire tone of this original list is that of a tantrum. And I agree, in this particular case, that it gets you nothing.
10. You put yourself here. YOU need to fix YOU.
Not a one of us put ourselves here. Let’s just start there. To be blunt about it, we’re here because two people procreated. It’s our choice what we do with out lives to be sure, but it’s not our choice to be here. The onus on us is to live our best lives and be our best selves, not be so shouldered with so much guilt and unnecessary responsibility that we don’t even want to bother.
11. Shut your mouth, open your ears.
Here’s the thing. Even if I’d agreed with the entire list, you’d have lost me with this one. It’s unkind and unnecessary. We don’t influence behavior, win friends, or gain respect by telling people to “shut their mouths.” And on the contrary, lots of forward progress has been made in this country, and in this world, precisely because people did not shut their mouths.
Life has some harsh lessons sometimes, this much is true. But the answer is never, ever more harshness.