I have decided that scolding anyone–child, lover, friend, colleague– is not necessarily morally reprehensible. It is, however, a waste of time. Blaming people for their past actions, without working toward a viable solution, is bad time management. Nothing positive seems to happen as a result of a good scolding. We save time and make progress when we can communicate in a manner that can be heard.
I scold my children and spouse on a regular basis. When I find bathing suits on the dining room table or no toilet paper in the bathroom, I scold. I blame. I stomp around. The kind of scolding I am thinking about, however, extends beyond my home. I call it public scolding.
On Saturday, President Obama scolded Republicans for stalling on campaign finance reform in his weekly address. I don’t disagree with his message and his scolding tone did nothing to further any excitement toward collective action. On Sunday, President Carter blamed former Senator Kennedy for derailing health care reform back in the 1970s. I have no idea whether President Carter spoke the truth and the way he scolded a dead man was unnerving. His scolding words made it difficult for me to watch the interview. I wanted to scold President Carter.
Scolding is the act of reprimanding actions made in the past without remembering that life throttles forward. One of my mentors signs all of her communications with “onward.” Yesterday, she added “only way to go.” It’s true. If we can hope for change, we must fall in love with the possibility of the future without dwelling in the past.
The next time I get ready to scold, I will do my best to ask myself first “What is the point here?” What will scolding actually do? Sometimes, it is crucial to register concern or upset. I believe, however, it is more effective to communicate without guilt or scorn.