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Sunday, September 5, 2010

Don't Push Me Or I'll....

"Don't push me!" I hear this simple, threatening statement more than ever. Those who stand accused of anything these days love to crow this warning. One person typically says this to let others know his "buttons" are being pushed to the limit of tolerance. Often, the person issuing the statement is making a pleading, even desperate attempt to draw a final line against further disturbing actions. With this statement, the person issues a preliminary signal that he is going to do something terrible to himself or to another if his advice is not followed.

But, I contend that most of the good that has happened in my life has involved overstepping this attitude. In other words, once able to reason even a little, I, too, resented manipulation, and I had the attitude that I could make my own decisions but soon found "Don't push me!" to be a stupid defense. Perhaps I should have been saying, "Please, push me!" even more to positive influences.

In reality, as others who cared for me were pushing, they were actually guiding me (even pulling me) to achieve better things. I would have never been involved in so many positive activities in my life without someone else forcing me along. These "pushes," some very gentle and some very hard, were essential to my development and, later, I greatly appreciated the people who realized their importance in my life and who took time to shove me past tall barriers.

Raw experience met with no preparation and no advice is often disastrous to an individual. The wise limit their initial exposure to new surroundings until establishing essential understandings. As a person gains knowledge and direction from others, he better equips himself to operate independently. Only a fool would ignore the advice of a seasoned veteran, even if choosing to take an alternate route. Absorbing a trusted  "push," a person usually takes pause and finds he has suffered no harm for the contact.

I taught high school English classes for many years, and I realize I was a "pushy" teacher. When asked about why I pushed students, I usually replied "because that is what the district pays me to do." But, honestly, the answer involved much more. High expectations and high achievement go hand in hand. As the years passed, I saw a tremendous number of students surpass the highest expectations I pushed them towards. They achieved standards I could have never met myself. The highest reward for a demanding teacher is to see students actively seeking their own limits and finding satisfaction in their own personal accomplishments.

Now, I realize that increased pressures and strict time limitations hinder students. And, I know stress can destroy anyone with good intentions; however, people simply must acquire wisdom and reasoning skills. I feel we must take more time to "push" this type of knowledge. People who acquire a "box of unrelated facts" without reasoning and basic theory cannot apply their education to their full advantage. Critical thinking requires time  for reflection, for interpretation, and for implementation. We, as a caring society, must make and take this time.

Maybe if we saw a critical obligation to "push" our fellow human beings, we would actually improve the world. No one advocates shoving someone over a cliff, be it physical or mental. But, I can't help but wonder why throngs of people think freedom of thought and of action begins at age twelve. The necessary force of guidance needed for proper influence varies with each individual. Even finding the appropriate instrument of application is often difficult. Still, for me, living a life without "pushes" would be far too dangerous, merely inviting destruction. "Push me!" is so very often appropriate.

"Few things in the world are more powerful than a positive push. A smile. A world of optimism and hope. A "you can do it" when things are tough."   --Richard M. DeVos
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