A young girl, known to me, wrote to a priest saying very politely that though she respected him, she was not in agreement with something he had done. Instead of dialoguing with her, calling her to explain, his reply was, “How dare you!”
For him, questioning his actions, was dissent!
From the stern, autocratic father to the political dictator, from the rigid headmaster, to a harsh uncle or aunt, dissent is not tolerated. But it’s not just these so called tyrants who can’t take someone questioning their authority, sometimes we ordinary individuals, who are supposedly more flexible in our approach in handling someone disagreeing with us, can’t take it.
“How dare you?” we shout at a son who says he’d like to stay out late, when you the dad and big chief of the house have announced curfew time as 10 pm!
“But dad, ten is when the party begins!”
And you blow a fuse.
But it’s worth thinking what you are angry about: Is it that he your son can’t see what is good for him, or is it he’s dared question you?
Before you yell, what is important to note is that he hasn’t rebelled by breaking the rule yet, he is just asking you in his own way the logic behind the rule.
You don’t like his tone?
Do you remember your own tone many decades back when you asked your father for an explanation?
How did you do it? Did you sit him down in his favorite rocking chair, get him a glass of iced tea, then gently ask him whether you could come home late?
I don’t think so. You, like your son here, must have been angry you were being kept away from an evening of fun, and that anger must have given you courage to be blunt with him, much like your son or daughter is doing now.
What they see is the fun you are forcing them to miss.
What you see are the perils of the night.
Two entirely different pictures: Wouldn’t it make sense if you both exchange these pics?
“Look,” I used to tell my daughters as they grew up, “What I’m afraid off is how you get back!”
“Oh,” said my children, “We thought you felt we were into drugs and drinking at the party!”
“No!” I would say horrified, “I know you better! I’m just afraid of the night drive back!”
And after they assured me that either I could pick them up, or someone trusted would drop them home, I was okay.
But we had to come to a stage when I saw their point of view and they saw mine.
The best way to handle dissent is by not viewing it as such. Someone has to come halfway, and it makes sense if you do. Not tolerating, not understanding, not allowing others to disagree with our opinions doesn’t stop them from doing what they want. They finally do what they want, and the only fool is you.
And we are not just talking about children..!