When I’m frustrated and can’t speak, I either act out or I dream of a solution.
Children tend to act out. Adults dream of solutions. Sometimes an action or a solution includes revenge.
This seems to hold true among Quakers of all ages. The religious education program I coordinate for Quaker children has some acting out. The atmosphere is more violent than the children, their adult leaders or I want it to be. It’s more violent than most of the group of Friends who employ me might believe. I guess it’s about on a par with the playgrounds I supervised for public elementary schools.
The large meetings for business that I (rarely) attend include many ideas for solutions to many contemporary problems. Some solutions are focused on the group itself, some on regional or world issues. Sometimes violence or revenge is spoken of or included in a proposed solution. To sit through such a meeting does violence to the physiology of many of us. Some of us avoid that hurt by skipping meetings, perhaps while helping with the children’s program. Some channel the physiological hurt into smart and sharp repartee or open protest. The words may be aimed at evil in the world or they may be directed at a Friend across the room.
Last week I was blessed to attend a few snippets of my yearly meeting sessions for business. I’ve served on the Committee on the Discipline for a few years. Our committee’s co-clerks reported during one of my brief visits to the sessions. We are a year away from presenting the next version of the Faith and Practice, to be bound subsequent to its acceptance by the yearly meeting.
In response, one Friend asked us to publish the next Faith and Practice on the web. Whether we want it or not, we should expect information from this Friend on how to make it accessible to those with different visual abilities. This is a promise to occupy our time. Seems like beneficial and productive time for a webkeeper or someone from the committee to spend.
The promise to occupy our time is a small threat, but a threat nonetheless. The threat to provide us information probably comes out of frustration with publications that are interesting, but inaccessible. Perhaps our committee itself has published in inaccessible formats in the past. I confess that many of our recent drafts have been quite hard to find.
There are many clever and profound words traded by liberal Quakers as we meet together and as we converse over meals. I’ve noticed many of us who can’t or don’t care to partake in that style of interaction absent ourselves from large gathering or large meetings. Expamples include my father, myself and about half the volunteers for our children’s program.
When one or two children verbally denigrate or irritate another, violence is done to their hearts. The diminished child is frustrated and sometimes angry. Among Quaker children I’ve noticed that sometimes turn into a push, a slap or a punch. Interesting thing with this group: They don’t fight back! One touch and it’s over. The whole group gasps, pauses and stops. This is beyond the pale of what’s expected in this environment. The one who struck the blow can’t believe what they just did. Often, they seek reconciliation right away. The one who’s hurt cries, gets the attention they need and then things go on.
I’ve realized this week that physical aggression has come only from those children with delayed speech or quick impulses. This is not based on a qualified diagnosis, but on observation through my experienced eyes.
By no means should any children’s program exclude or police any child with slow speech, autism or hyperkinesis. Moral education is a better solution. All children–all people–need to learn what to do with frustration, anger and belittlement.
Because I’ve noticed the problem with physical aggression manifested in those with communication differences, it’s vital that my teaching come through many learning modes. I can’t just sermonize or write about it. Usually I subject misbehaving children to a seven question interview. That must be modified from its current oral language dependent format.
This blog post may be just a start for some education. The problem is not just a children’s problem. By sitting all day in meetings, sharing and interest groups, neglecting our inner children and our living ones, adults do violence to our posteriors and our hearts as well as to our posterity. We take revenge or compensation out on each other instead of learning to love each other and our neighbors.
Let’s practice the skills of problem solving. Let’s stand up and play a game about it. Let’s have a whole yearly meeting session about it. A theme could be When my sibling wrongs me…
If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother….