Monday, May 6, 2013

Toxic Signage

Over the past week, I've had to read a sign every day as I drive home from the night job. It reads, "Love is free. Approval is earned." And it's been bothering me...because it isn't true.

For two main reasons:

1) Love isn't free. It takes work. Love requires a certain level of intimacy combined with understanding. A certain kind of acceptance and support that allows the other person to be who he or she is without judgement, but with the willingness to help if said person wants to change for the better. Love requires you to pay attention to where a person is in his/ her life.

Compassion, on the other hand, IS free. All you have to do to be compassionate is to acknowledge that everyone has unique stresses and struggles and accept that your views and experiences are not the entirety of the human experience.

2) Approval isn't earned. We give approval to things every day simply by choosing not to speak out against them. Bias, hatred, marginalization. By offering no dissent against slurs and "casual" bigotry, we tell the one offering those things that it is acceptable behavior to do so. And while those truly harmful things are accepted, we show dissent for things no one can change:  height, appearance, race, gender, sexual orientation, mental illness, illness, etc... We decry behaviors that are actually healthy: removing oneself from a toxic home environment, family planning, establishing personal boundaries, expressing emotion or affection, being our unique selves, defending those who are marginalized, etc... If approval was actually earned, these things wouldn't happen.

Plus, approval is a basic human need. We all find ourselves in situations where we need someone to appreciate the place we are at as individuals. We all DESERVE to have our intrinsic worth validated. Because we are all different, coming from different experiences. We all have different ideas of prosperity, love, honor, faith, intimacy, etc...and that's fine. We deserve a place where those around us accept and acknowledge that fact. And we deserve that without ever having to do a thing.

So a healthy sign would read: "Approval and compassion are free. Respect is earned."

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