The point of this post is not to get you to change your opinion on whether or not to vaccinate your child.
I’m not even going to tell you whether or not my kid is vaccinated.
The minute I do that, I lose half the people I want to reach. I will become an opponent.
Because this debate has become toxic.
I get why. We’re talking about our kids. We’d do anything to protect them. Including fight. Especially fight.
And what better place to fight than on the internet? We can get all wound up while sitting comfortably on our couches, and not see the effect we’re having on each other.
We can rant. We can insult. We can moralize and demonize.
And we can shut down when the other side starts talking.
So why bother to talk about it at all?
Have you ever changed your mind in the face of someone shouting you down?
In the last week, I’ve read proclamations from both sides that explicitly say: you’re a bad parent/citizen based on your choice.
Here’s the thing — and we all know this — when you start hurling insults at the other side, it’s not going to do any good. In fact it’s doing damage.
The people in your choir will nod their heads and everybody else will turn their backs.
You’re better off not even opening your mouth.
Battling breaks down any trust that exists — or has the potential to exist — between two people. And when there’s no trust, there’s no changing hearts and minds.
The fact is, we don’t have any control over the choices of others.
Everyone makes decisions based — at least in part — on their biggest fears.
So what to do?
I believe the way we talk about this matters.
Remember: you have far more in common with other parents than you have differences. Everybody is making the best decision they can with the information and values they have.
I have friends on both sides of the debate. They are all good people and good parents. I love and care about all of them. I value those relationships.
What we need to do is figure out the best way to move forward with the circumstances we have in place.
Right now, I worry that’s not happening. Can you picture a group of parents from both sides sitting down and talking about what to do during a school outbreak without any vitriol?
It’s not realistic to think the pendulum of public opinion is going to swing to one side or the other during a toxic debate. There are no winners.
Here’s what we can do:
Listen with compassion.
Reflect on our own opinions and choices.
Change our own minds on the issue, or don’t.
But above all, keep our hearts soft and take our armor off.
All over the world, everybody always strikes out at the enemy, and the pain escalates forever. Every day we could reflect on this and ask ourselves, “Am I going to add to the aggression in the world?” Every day, at the moment when things get edgy, we can just ask ourselves, “Am I going to practice peace, or am I going to war?” — Pema Chodron