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Why we all need to take a knee

POSTED: September 30, 2017 9:39 a.m.
Erin Stewart/

No matter what side you're on in this particular protest, perhaps kneeling is the perfect symbol for what America needs right now.

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Take a knee.

I’ve never seen three words become so loaded so quickly. After President Donald Trump’s comments that NFL players should lose their jobs if they disrespect the flag, many football players, owners and spectators took a knee in support of Colin Kaepernick, who originally knelt during the anthem last year to bring attention to police brutality against black Americans.

All weekend, people rushed to be the first on social media to either condemn or support the #takeaknee movement. People accused the kneelers as being unpatriotic. The kneelers accused the standers of being unsympathetic to racial injustice and unsupportive of their right to free speech.

Essentially, everyone did what they always do: assert their moral high ground and proclaim everyone else evil, hateful, wrong, rude, stupid and anti-American.

As I watched the arguments back on forth on social media, I couldn’t shake the powerful visual of the football players kneeling. It’s not a position we take often in society, but it’s a posture I assume regularly as a mother.

When my kids are being difficult or defiant or downright buttheads, I usually start by talking down to them. I tell them what to do. I say why I am right and they are wrong.

If you’re a parent, you know exactly how often this method works. Never.

What does work, however, is when I get down with them, on their level, face to face, and actually try to understand the problem. The simple act of kneeling next to them as they struggle to put on their shoes or clean up helps them know I am on their team, that we are on the same side, even if we disagree.

Once I’m down there, I listen. I find out why they are upset. We try to come up with a solution together that makes both of us feel happy, loved and valued.

And then we stand up — together.

Now, I know police brutality, partisan politics and First Amendment rights are on a whole different level from the challenges faced by my small children. But I believe the philosophy is the same.

When we stop asserting ourselves and start listening, we can actually make progress. But all the posts I saw were people ranting about their viewpoint or disparaging the arguments of the opposing side. How many posts did you see where someone asked a question in the hopes of truly understanding why someone is part of the Black Lives Matter movement or, conversely, trying to understand why someone feels so strongly about standing for the flag?

Not everyone needs to kneel as part of the #takeaknee protest. That's a personal choice. But no matter what side of the argument you’re on, perhaps kneeling is the perfect symbol for what we need most in America right now. It’s the body posture I use when trying to understand my hurting child. It’s the position athletes take when they are listening to their coach.

It’s how we pray. We kneel, not as a show of subservience or disrespect, but as a symbol of active listening. We humbly kneel to show we’re ready to understand the Lord’s will for us.

In every situation, we kneel to listen. To understand. To admit we don't know everything. To hear instead of to be heard.

And isn’t that exactly what we need? More listening, less talking. More understanding, less preaching. More humility, less pride.

So, yes, stand for the anthem if your convictions dictate. Or kneel. Do whatever you think is right in this particular situation.

But outside of the arena — political or football — it’s time all of us take a knee, shut our mouths and, for once, stop clamoring to be understood and start fighting to understand.
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