When leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced changes last week of how it will handle baptisms for children of LGBT parents, I was particularly struck by a line in the announcement that said, “We want to reduce the hate and contention so common today.”
Whether or not you agree with the church’s policies or this recent change, I think most people can agree that we all want to eliminate as much hate as possible in the world. As a mother, I want my children to grow up in a world filled with less hate, but I also want to raise humans who recognize and combat all the forms hatred can take.
So I’ve been thinking recently about how to raise children not only full of personal integrity and conviction, but also full of love, tolerance and understanding for friends and strangers who make different choices.
First, I think we have to be willing to have conversations regularly about loving all of God’s children. We should take opportunities to point out injustices or intolerance where we see it, and let our children talk about why it’s wrong and what they can do on a personal level to correct it. We should not be afraid to address the hate we see in small, insidious ways all around us, even if it comes from someone close to us or from our children themselves.
When these critical conversations about race, religion, disabilities or gender arise, don’t shy away from straightforward, simple answers. Acting embarrassed or awkward will only communicate to your child that some subjects are taboo. Help your child learn how to be open and honest about the fact that discrimination and outright hatred exists. Talk frankly with them about how such intolerance affects the world and the individuals around them. Maybe even discuss how their own privilege factors into their worldview and biases. Then, help them think through what to do to fix it.
Second, children need to be exposed often to diversity. If your children are not exposed to such differences in race, religion and lifestyle regularly, seek it out. Whether that’s through media choices, exhibits, artwork or even toys, find ways to expose your children to people who look and live differently than they do. Better yet, help your children interact in these differing worlds by doing things such as attending religious services at various houses of worship, engaging in cultural celebrations or just trying food from other countries.
As our children learn about the many beautiful traditions and people in the world, help them focus on the similarities instead of the differences. Find the pieces of humanity that tie us together.
Of course, I can’t raise tolerant children if I am not tolerant myself. Values such as inclusivity and love (and hate) are learned at home first. So I’m taking stock of my own level of judgement and bias. Am I telling jokes aimed at a specific cultural or religious group? Do I use terms that inadvertently degrade a class of people? Do I have deep-seated stereotypes that may be influencing the way I’m raising my children?12 comments on this story
I think for most people, intolerance comes from a place of fear. We fear what is different. We fear that someone will try to change our lifestyle. We fear they will challenge our beliefs.
But if we are truly going to respond to the call from leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ to “reduce the hate and contention” in the world, we have to rid ourselves and our families of this kind of limiting fear. That doesn’t mean compromising your own beliefs, but simply committing to the idea that loving another human being is never anything to fear.
In the end, we will have to be fearless in love if we expect to fight hate.