When bad things happen in the world, the internet is flooded with “thoughts and prayers.” As nice as those words are, if they’re not followed by action, they ring hollow and fall flat. Actions always speak MUCH louder than words. Let’s discuss.
Actions Speak Louder Than Thoughts and Prayers
Before we start, let me make two things very clear. First, this isn’t aimed at one political party or the other. I’m not naming names or taking sides because attacking each other never gets us anywhere.
I’m not even necessarily only talking about one specific issue here. I’m talking about how actions speak louder than thoughts and prayers period, whether they’re said in the wake of a national catastrophe or just from one individual to another.
Second, I am absolutely NOT saying that there’s anything wrong with “thoughts and prayers.” I do think that the phrase is overused to the point that it comes across as a bit trite, but I know many people genuinely mean it when they say it.
I also think that we say it – or some variation of it-because we just don’t know what else to say. When massive tragedies strike, we as a society sort of go into collective shock. How do we find the right words to say when we can’t even begin to wrap our minds around what happened?
Some variation of “thoughts and prayers” just kind of pop out of our mouths. It’s like our brains have the words queued up so that we have something to say when words fail us. We’ve been through so many tragic events that our subconscious mind developed its own template response to give our conscious mind time to process what happened.
So, no, I’m not slamming “thoughts and prayers.” I’m not villainizing those who genuinely use those words. But at the end of the day, they are just words. Just talk. It’s time to stop just talking and start actually doing something to change things.
We need to stop talking and start acting
Last week, we discussed how hard it is to talk to our kids about tragedies that we don’t understand ourselves. At the end of that post, I said that we need to stop asking “why, why, why does this keep happening?” Instead, we need to ask, “What can we do to stop it from happening again?” Then, we need to actually act on the answer.
Again, I’m not talking about one specific tragedy. Horrific things just keep happening, and it feels like there’s really no safe place left in this world. Schools, grocery stores, subways, nail salons, nightclubs, concerts, marathons, malls, and even a garlic festival. All normal, everyday places that normal, everyday people visit. All sites of devastating violence.
What can we do to stop it from happening again? Finding the answer to that question should unite us. After all, only a true monster actually wants horrible things to keep happening. While we all are capable of saying -or even believing-monstrous things at times, the vast majority of us aren’t actually monsters.
So why, then, is finding the answer such a divisive mission? I’m actually asking. I don’t have the answer. It doesn’t make sense to me. Just like my mind can’t comprehend mass tragedies, it can’t comprehend a world in which people can’t find a way to work together to stop them from happening again and again and again.
I feel like part of the problem- perhaps the biggest part of the problem- is that one side immediately goes on the offense and the other side on the defense. Right away, we’re playing on opposite teams. The other problem is that we each come up with what we think is the solution, then we dig in deep. It’s usually an “all or nothing” answer, and we don’t give each other any wiggle room.
Should we compromise?
Should we compromise? Should one side be willing to give an inch on something that they feel so very passionate about? That’s another question that I can’t really answer for you. The stakes are so high for both sides. Yes, for both sides. You may feel that your stakes are more important (I know that I feel that way about my side), but until we at least acknowledge that the opposite “team” feels that they’re just as high for them, we’re never going to get anywhere.
At this point, I imagine that you’re thinking, “You said actions speak louder than words like thoughts and prayers, yet all you’ve done is throw a bunch of words at me and talk around the topic.” I totally hear you, there. It’s a valid point.
However, the goal of this isn’t to tell you what actions we need to take. The moment I mention a specific action that makes the most sense to me is the moment I lose roughly 38% of you. It’s the moment that this goes from a conversation to an offense/defense game. Figuring out how to save lives shouldn’t be a game at all.
Maybe our first act should involve words
Maybe the first action we should take, then, is to just sit down in the same room and have a civil conversation with each other. Maybe we don’t dive right into the BIG conversation but start with just getting to know each other.
Grey’s Anatomy fans, do you remember that scene in the first part of the 6th season finale of (“Sanctuary”) where April starts telling Mr. Clark all the details of her life? She ends with “I’m a person. I’m someone’s child. I’m a person,” or something along those lines. Mr. Clarke lets her go. April later explains that if you tell the perpetrator personal details about yourself, you are more likely to survive an attack.
Well, I believe the same holds true in this situation. If we recognize each other as people and not just “opposition,” we’re less likely to attack each other. Maybe that’s just wishful thinking. Maybe it naïve. But at least it’s a place to start.
We’ll never be able to work together to act if we can’t even sit in the same room together. That’s a problem since the ONLY way to act is to do so together. We don’t need to agree. We don’t even need to be on the same page. But we at least have to be in the same book.
As I said, I can’t really tell you what the right action is. I have my own ideas based on my ethics and morals, but I don’t know if they’re the right solutions. I do know that if we don’t come up with something together, we’ll just keep living in this Groundhogs Day nightmare where tragedies just keep happening. I also know that we just plain need to do better than “thoughts and prayers.”