I worry about what adults unwittingly teach children. I doubt if there is any conscious intent with so much of what we “transmit,” thus my qualifier. Most of us are aware that if there is a conflict between what we say and what we do, our actions and behavior wins out in the messaging. Children are watching and listening all the time, absorbing information at lightning speed.
There is a legitimate concern regarding the effect we have on our youth. How we treat them matters a great deal but so does how we treat one another. How we handle offenses by “authority figures” matters too, especially when the offense is directed at innocent children. It is reprehensible behavior that certainly can not be ignored, but it behooves us to handle these issues with care. Adults carry that serious responsibility to our youth.
So I think about the offender in the sexual abuse case of all those young athletes and the willingness of so many others who may have looked the other way when they heard or saw something that did not look quite right. Are they somehow complicit? And I worry about what we do to the abuser, how we justify the consequential punishment and allow for abusing the abuser in some sort of justified retaliation. Are we condoning abuse ourselves, further confusing the issue? I’m unsure about the message and whether it is the best way to handle it.
While we can not fail to address egregious cases of mistreatment of others, we are well advised to check our behavior and respond with careful attention rather than react in anger or cruelty. People will always do bad things, but they are human beings. Fallability is part of our human condition and empathy is never a bad idea. In fact, it’s good teaching and a lesson really worth learning.