When I was going through my divorce many years ago, we had to deal with some family issues with a therapist. In one of our sessions I learned a term that I hadn’t heard before: good enough parenting. The term was meant to suggest the impossibility of being a perfect parent. First, because even psychologists can’t agree on a definition for parental perfection. But secondly, and perhaps most importantly, no real human being (much less a parent) could ever live up to anyone’s concept of perfection.
We all have our own imperfections, biases, blind spots … and bad days. Being a good enough parent simply means adequately providing for and nurturing your children through their childhood. Good enough parents respect and accept their children for who they are. Good enough parents do not focus on the imperfections of either themselves or their children. Good enough parents help their children but don’t try to mold them into something they are not. Good enough parents self-reflect on their parenting and apologize when they screw up.
So why am I bringing up this subject? As a (perhaps too intense) observer of political discourse, I am struck daily by how dysfunctional much of the conversation seems to be, seemingly in search of some sort of political perfection. In today’s highly polarized politics, there is far too much self-righteous fundamentalism expressed across the political spectrum. Frankly, it’s off-putting to those of us more interested in political progress (whatever our political persuasion) than in staking out purist positions.
Imagine what it would be like if we were able to quit talking about those imperfect ones in our chosen tribe – Republican or Democrat or Conservative or Progressive or Libertarian or whatever. Imagine what it would be like to quit talking about the imperfections of those in the other tribes. Imagine what it would be like to change the dialog.
Like it or not, we’re all in this together. We have a responsibility to treat each other as human beings – human beings who deserve each other’s mutual respect. We can’t change how others interact politically, but we certainly can change how we do so.
So, I’ve decided to propose a good enough human being purity test. Yes, a bit tongue in cheek, but I think you get my point. As with other purity tests, it’s obviously in the eye of the beholder. And as imperfect human beings, there will always be times we will undoubtedly “fall off the wagon”.
Take the test and see how many of the 10-point test items you agree with. Maybe you have some items of your own you’d like to suggest.
You’re a good enough human being if you:
- … respect everyone’s right to live their life as they see fit – so long as they don’t bring harm to others.
- … desire a world in which we can protect ourselves from others who seek us harm.
- … respect everyone’s opinion and their right to express it – no matter how misguided you think they are.
- … believe that those who are different from you are not inferior to you – in fact you love that they’re different from you.
- … desire that every human being could be adequately fed, clothed, housed, cared for, respected, and loved.
- … recognize that changing others is neither your responsibility nor, for that matter, possible.
- … prefer respectful dialog to confrontational dialog.
- … refrain from personal labeling and name-calling (also a good enough parenting rule).
- … don’t believe that compromise is a dirty word.
- … prefer common ground to the high ground.