Five things we need to stop doing. Now.

It's the election season. The crazy times. The maddening. Or whatever you want to call it. It seems the weeks leading up to the first Tuesday in November always brings out the worst in people. It might be the over-zealous passion for or against a particular candidate. It could be that this is the only time people dig deeply into hot-button topics. Whatever the reason, I know that we can do better.

Perhaps, if we can survive the vicious political pandemonium that has become a semi-regular celebration in America without breaking hearts or destroying friendships, we might be able to carry on normal conversations with a hint of greater civility.

In the Mars Ill song 'Love's Not,' ManChild raps, "I know what love is and it just don't stop, but I can explain it better when I say what love's not." In a similar manner, I could explain things to do that would create a better world, but I can explain it better when I list the things we should stop doing.

Not only are these actions that should cease - but things that need to end immediately.

1. Stop calling things/people/places gay or retarded. In my experience, these terms are only used to deride something or someone that doesn't hold up to our expectations. Your buddy isn't gay because he missed a jump shot during a pickup game of basketball. Your computer isn't retarded because you lost a file before you had a chance to save it. When you use these two words, not only are you insulting the object of your ridicule, but you are also degrading any one who is gay or afflicted with mental retardation. I'm guilty with this one because I frequently called anything that didn't work the way it was supposed to "retarded." That was until my son was diagnosed with Aspergers. Now I'm probably over sensitive to its usage. Regardless of my personal feelings, this world would be a better place if we found better adjectives.

2. Stop demonizing people who disagree with you. Opinions are abundant in our world and truth is often an issue of debate. Someone somewhere will always disagree with you. Having a different set of values or beliefs doesn't make someone an enemy. Your opinion might be grounded in facts while theirs is rooted in emotion. You might be right and they could be woefully wrong. But the rightness of your argument does not make you better. Not liking Obama does not make someone a racist. Being pro-choice does not make someone Hitler. No one hates women just because they're pro-life. Not everyone who rallies for social services is a free loader. We can't continue vilifying everyone who holds a different view than ours. Doing so devalues the person you reject. It undermines your own beliefs. It cheapens the weight of your insult. Racism is still a problem in our world, but the more we call people racist just because they disagree with us the less impact that word will have when confronted with real racists. Free loaders exist, but that term becomes meaningless when we start calling everyone a free loader. Cooperation would be much easier if we stop creating enemies where none exists.

3. Stop labeling everyone. Labels can be useful when trying to find someone like a real life version of Where's Waldo. But labels lie. A person's identity and personality are far more complex than the labels we give them. Fat people are more than their weight. Gay people are more than their sexuality. Junkies are more than their addiction. Racial minorities are more than their melanin (or lack thereof), autistic kids are more than their diagnosis, fast food workers are more than their job. Everyone has the right to be treated with dignity and the first step is to look beyond the labels. Get to know people for their dreams and aspirations, not their label. Describe people for their better traits and not their flaws.

4. Stop living beyond your means. I think it's unfair for many Americans to demand a fiscally responsible government while they're living on maxed out credit cards, wearing name brand clothing, and buying cars that are clearly out of their price range. I marvel with a mix of amusement and revulsion when people complain about the economy while eating expensive fast food and updating their twitter feed from their brand new iPhone. Opportunities exist to get your house and money in order (and I highly recommend Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University) that don't require a degree in economics. If more people could control of their own finances, we'd be better prepared to elect people capable of handling our nation's budget.

5. Stop giving up. There are valid reasons to quit and move on. A better employment opportunity. Infidelity. Reasons exist. But they are few and should be an exception - not the norm. Too many people quit jobs because "the work sucks." Then they move on to an new job that they'll hate just as much as the last one. Too many people give up on marriage because they've lost that loving feeling, money issues, or irreconcilable differences. It's a cop-out. Too many turn to suicide because they've lost hope. Their addictions or mental health issues remain hidden or unaddressed. We live in a nation of people who quit for the wrong reasons. What we fail to realize that we can learn to like jobs we don't love. We miss opportunities to build healthier marriages. We ignore the blessings of life and focus on the here and now. The problem is that being in a loving relationship is hard work. So is making the most of your current employment when it's not what you want to do for the rest of your life. So is looking forward to life when suicide seems like an easier option. Living life, being married, and any job can be rewarding if we put in the effort to make it worthwhile. CS Lewis said it more eloquently than I ever will: "There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind."

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