Driving, carpooling and late night talks give way to conversations with my teen, preteen and elementary school age kids and their friends. Fall tryouts, tense games and new middle school dynamics make for constant backseat chatter. A phrase I heard often this week was "Why do you care what people think?" This made me wonder when we should care about what others think.
As a culture overall I would argue we have gone too far in the direction of individualism. Not caring about how our actions impact others, impact the earth and choosing the image of self (selfies) over community. There are times when doing your own thing, trusting your gut or running with an idea are commendable. There are also times to listen to other people's opinions, times to allow people you respect to be mirrors for actions in question and times to follow the guidance of another person.
On a teenage level there are many opportunities to worry too much about other people's perceptions. Finding close friends to trust, fostering faith communities and parent connection time seem crucial. I still care what my parents think, I care what my close friends think and I care deeply that my overall actions are pleasing to God. My children have different points of faith in their lives but I urge them to find space to pray when they feel anxiety or worry about peers.
I want them to care what others think of their actions, but not in a self despairing way, rather in a way that allows for personal growth and reflection.
I have done a poor job at times in my life of caring too much about what the wrong people thought of my actions. I have found that if I focus on people that truly love and care about me, if I focus on my faith base, I am far more content in my words or decisions.
As my kids toss around the phrase, "Who cares what they think!" I hope to enter conversations about the they rather than agree wholeheartedly. I hope to talk more about creating community and less about one for all and all for one. I hope to be mindful of pleasing those around me for the right reasons, reasons that bring me peace of mind and allow me to respect myself as well as others.