The Character Movement

A Note on Perspective

By Joe Cavanaugh, Founder & CEO of Youth Frontiers

Recently, I came across the quote: “We need to not see more rightly, but rather more completely.” How does one do this in our polarized society? We tend to shout about how “right” we are – about political candidates, positions on gun control or bathroom access – and in the process drown out the opinions of those who disagree with us. However, seeing more completely involves listening and remaining open to perspectives differing from our own.

I have a dear group of lifelong friends who typically do not see eye-to-eye in our society’s debates. After we gather, I often think about how my friends are good, honorable people, yet we disagree about many things. I ask myself, “What is it they see that I don’t see?” I take time to reflect on this question because I value my friends, and I am motivated to preserve our friendship. I study the other position and instead of immediately judging it, I work to understand it. This helps me see my friends and the subject more completely.

Maybe, just maybe, the people we disagree with are not completely wrong; perhaps they simply see something that we do not see. Maybe in order to create a more civil society and preserve our community, we need to tamp down our right way of seeing and instead try to see more completely.

At Youth Frontiers’ school kick-off last August, I told our amazing team of almost 50 that our work this year was more important than ever. I said that we as an organization were going to aim to bring more civility to our schools by encouraging kids to embrace character and the values of kindness, courage and respect.

“WE NEED TO NOT SEE MORE RIGHTLY,

BUT RATHER MORE COMPLETELY.”

 

Youth Frontiers will facilitate 842 character retreats this school year. During these retreats, we say to the students, “We are not trying to make you friends; we are trying to show you that you don’t have to be enemies.” We challenge kids to see their classmates, educators, schools and themselves more completely.

It is a timely message for us adults to hear as well. As I reflect on the toxic incivility that is bombarding all of us, poisoning once-respectful relationships and dividing our community, the need for character and respectful behavior is evident. Many have told me that they think our communities need “Adult Frontiers.”

We all need to hear this message. For Youth Frontiers, that means bringing more respect and civility to our community. For our community – whether civil or uncivil – is the soil in which our children’s character grows.

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