OFF THE CUFF

In talking with friends and acquaintances about 2020 over the past week or so, I’ve heard several of them refer in general terms to the way people behave these days.

It seems there’s a groundswell of recognition that folks’ attitudes and actions have gone a bit sideways of late. I tend to agree, and I can recall when things were different.

One of the people pointed out how Americans are more clearly divided now than ever. And not just along hard-to-define political boundaries, but between fundamental ways of thinking.

I feel the same way, and I view that divide as resembling a vast chasm more than a narrow crack. And it’s getting wider by the day, as more and more people simply hold their ground at all costs and dismiss any form of rational discussion or compromise.

And again, we’re not just talking Republicans and Democrats, but rather organizations’ boards, companies’ management groups, church leadership – you name it.

Along the same lines, another person said, “It used to be that people were much more gracious toward each other, but now they’re so quick to act hateful if someone doesn’t think the same way they do.”

Also in a similar vein, someone else said, “It used to be that a person would share their opinion and then shut up and go with what the majority wanted. It was about respecting others and not insisting on getting your own way.”

That would seem to be quite old fashioned nowadays, and respectfully acknowledging the will of a majority has been replaced by an “I know better” approach that puts argument and anger ahead of consideration and calmness.

What’s “in” now is to live by a much more self-righteous and self-promoting mentality that’s even bolstered by an unending river of “love yourself” mumbo-jumbo in music, television programming and pretty much all other forms of communication.

Not all that long ago, you wouldn’t hear people bringing up their dislike of such behavior because it wasn’t that way.

People would listen to each other and actually hear what was said.

People would recognize others’ opinions (especially that of a majority) and not hold them in contempt for thinking differently.

And people focused a lot less on themselves and far more on others.

As I made my around town early this week and people were wishing other a “Happy New Year,” I started sharing a new saying I made up: “Happy Whole Year,” mainly because of the nature of 2020.

But the more I thought about it, the more I began to realize that if any of us is to enjoy the best-possible 2021, that has to include a little less “me” and a lot more “you.” And I’d say that starts with the kind of grace and respect and that I heard people referring to, and was once so much more commonplace than in recent times.

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