When I was in eighth grade I participated in a mock trial.
I had to defend a man who was on trial for murder and up against the death penalty.
Pretty heavy for eighth grade I think to myself now, but looking back on it I remember being fully engaged in a lively discussion with my parents about my argument. I love a good argument. My parents taught me that, as did my extended family.
I don't remember many details of the actual mock trial but I do remember this fact. This young man I was defending (a 20 year old who had murdered another human being on the streets) had been forcefully kicked out of his mother's womb by his father. His father literally kicked his mother so hard in the stomach that she went into labor and he was born premature.
My argument was that he never stood a chance in this world.
He grew up in a circle of violence and repeated the exact world that he knew. It seemed pretty obvious to me even then that the world is not black and white. Privilege comes in many forms. Disadvantage is built layer by layer, as is shame, often resulting in catastrophe.
I can't remember if I won the mock trial. I hope I did.
Since eighth grade I've had a similar conversations with those who see the world as black and white.
But the world is not black and white. Decisions in life are often made in various shades of grey.
I recently read Jon Ronson's "So You've Been Publicly Shamed."
This incredible book dives into the re-emergence of public shaming, mostly on the internet and is jaw droppingly motivating if you're considering cutting social media out of your world.
Although the book references people who have gotten caught in sex rings, plagiarizing scandals, tweets gone horribly wrong, and exposes the scary "Mr. Robot" world that people in my kind of bubble don't even really know exists, it did more than that for me.
It reminded me of those shades of grey. It reminded me that it's important not to jump on the shaming bandwagon. It's very easy to see one side of the story. The story that fits into our narrative at the time.
This book taught me the vital importance of empathy. It seems we have lost a sense of empathy as a collective. It seems to me that empathy is lost when we make things black and white. More and more things in life are becoming black and white. Our social media posts are filled with only the best of moments. Our pictures are filtered or at the very least we take 3, 10, sometime 100 shots to get the perfect one.
We do not show the in between.
But it's the "in between" that I am interested in. I live in the "in between." You live in the "in between." The worst mistakes of my life do not define my character. The best choices of my life do not determine my success.
Life is made up of tiny increments of motivation, loss, and moments of push and pull. Now that those tiny moments can often be frozen in time for all of us to see and respond to, it seems to me that we all need to live, breathe, and teach one thing.