Good Guys and Bad Guys
Disclaimer: I might be wrong.
Rhodes is at that stage where he enjoys playing Jedi vs Sith, Autobots vs. Deceptions, and so on. It's pretty typical behavior for a four year-old boy. Actually, lets be honest, Daddy enjoys playing too. I will say that I have noticed myself being a bit more sensitive about the simple narrative of "good guys" and "bad guys" in children's programing (and I also need to start using a more gender neutral term). Even though he's only four, we find ourselves being intentional about challenging the notions of good people and bad people.
Because it’s never as easy as “Good Guys vs. Bad guys," is it?
Life is more complex than that. People are more complex than that. We all carry with us both the light and the dark. The challenge is to work hard every day to choose the light and stand and face the darkness when it rears its head. I have been the good guy AND the bad guy. Through my experiences I have realized that I am no better than the Harvey Weinsteins or Stephen Paddocks of the world in that I too carry within myself the capacity to do lasting damage to those around me and especially to those I love. At the same time, I have witnessed my ability to love deeply and help bring healing to the world. We walk with both.
Rhodes "He's a bad guy."
Me: "What makes him bad?"
Rhodes: "He makes bad choices."
Me. "Yes, he does and that's really sad. Buddy, do you ever make bad choices?"
Rhodes: "Yes. Sometimes"
Me: ":Does that make you a bad guy?"
We can use moments like this to talk about the consequences of our choices, but also try to help them understand people and why they might act a certain way. A bully at school might have just gone through a separation or divorce at home. The girl who always takes his toy might just want to be his friend but doesn't know how else to communicate it.
Calling out injustice and showing empathy and compassion are not competing ways of being. We can have high standards, but remain humble with the knowledge of the power we also carry to do harm. In our home, the idea of “good guys and bad guys” is always met with questions. Let me be clear, this isn't to dilute the message of what is right and wrong, but to teach empathy and to seek out understanding of someone else's experience and perspective. To say someone's very essence is bad or evil is to deny someone's humanity, which just keep us running in the same loop over and over again. We have no idea the battles that people fight, and so teaching to see everyone as wonderfully created by God from the start is helping us to view the world from a place of wholeness and not emptiness.
So surround yourself with goodness.
Ask for help when you need it.
Be quick to right your wrongs.
Hold each other to high standards, but be weary of judgement’s downward spiral.
Even when our kids are young, we can ask questions to help them understand the complexity of people and help teach them empathy.