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Person of the year

It gives me such a great feeling of hope and joy to learn of this year’s choice.

Hope because there are still voices of passion and caring for big ideas and issues that affect humanity. And hope that there are still people who recognize those voices for what they are. Selfless is the word that comes to mind.

Joy that this voice was instilled with the confidence at such a young age to speak up.

Certainly, not everyone has responded this way. So here are a few thoughts of mine that have helped me keep my perspective amidst the resulting negative noise we’ve heard.

It is a basic tool of bullies to torment those who disagree.

A classic tactic they’ve used throughout history is not to attack the message or debate the truth of it, but to take the less than courageous path of attacking the messenger. It happens right under our noses. And it is a deviously clever and effective way of deflecting our attention from what is really happening and from what really matters.

In my experience, here’s what I’ve learned - if someone starts attacking you it’s usually because you’re on to something.

A bully has lots of ways to undertake this attack. They might for instance say, that simply by disagreeing you’re incapable of rationality. It’s a catch-22. If you agree they’ve won; if you disagree they’ve won as well by painting you as unreasonable. If this technique seems transparent on the surface, think about what it must be like to be a journalist in our society today.

How can they get away with that, you ask? In part by using “brutal honesty” to gain trust. The logic appears to go that if I am willing to risk being attacked myself for telling a brutal truth no matter how hard it is for you to hear, then obviously I care very much about the truth so you can believe what I say. They then use this trust in what can only be described as a crazy-making way, to attack those who are actually telling the truth.

And round and round it goes because a bully doesn’t really care about truth, they care about “winning.” And no matter the elegance of or the truth behind your message, they can't hear it.

How can we then identify a bully?

It's simple - those who are not don’t need to attack. They simply need to state their truth with courageous honesty again and again and again if necessary.

I for one am grateful for these people. Grateful for and awed by the people who have refused to stay silent when they disagree while being attacked. Because just stop for a moment and think about how vicious that attack can be so you can fully absorb how brave it is.

And you know, I am saddened mostly not by the bullies themselves - there will always be those - but by the number of people willing to join in the attack. We speak about valuing bravery so often in our culture, yet we are so willing to tear it down. Even in our children.

And it seemingly happens without even a thought.

I rarely use the word should, because it often gets used in a judgmental way, but I think it’s fitting here: we should be celebrating this bravery. It should not even be a question of agree or disagree.

The next time you hear something with which you fervently disagree, see if you can see the bravery rather than the message. See if you can step back from the message and connect instead with the person behind it. Who is this person? What is this person’s experience that might have shaped their point of view? How might you be alike?

That’s when true debate over disagreements can happen.

That’s the only way the bullies don’t win.

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