You don’t have to look hard for opinions after the University of Kansas-Kansas State men’s basketball brawl and subsequent suspensions. The trajectory of the game and its aftermath and the behavior of players on both sides are all being scrutinized.
Judgments from the professionally opinionated proliferate.
But let’s zoom out for a moment. The game itself offers a lesson to all of us who work or otherwise appear in the public arena (and let’s face it, that’s most of us). That is, our behavior matters more than we may believe.
The example we set, each and every day, those are witnessed by friends and enemies alike. The way we move throughout the world is seen by our employers, our co-workers, our families and friends. And those movements — our actions and reactions — are judged.
Have we been kind? Have we been cruel? Have we paid attention to others? Or have we ignored them?
And no, context doesn’t matter the way that we sometimes want to believe. The game between KU and K-State had context to spare. It was the Sunflower Showdown, the great clash of our state’s premier public universities. It was lopsided in the final minutes and tempers flared. We all know that, we all understand that — but that knowledge doesn’t excuse unruly behavior. Players were still punished, and they’re still being judged by the public.
In the same way, we might be having a bad day (or week or month or year, if you remember your TV theme songs). But it doesn’t excuse cruelty or a short temper. It doesn’t erase abusive actions. The way we treat others matters.
All of us need to step back and be adults. The word “adult” has some odd connotations now, what with the ongoing worship of youth and skepticism toward baby boomers. If adults have gotten our country and our world to this place, the thinking goes, what good are they?
The point is well taken. But adulthood as classically conceived has positive points, and one of them is self-restraint. We shouldn’t say the first thing that pops into our minds. We shouldn’t take a swing before reading the room. We should take a moment and consider what message we’re sending, even unintentionally to others.
Is that fun? Not really. Frankly, it can be a drag. But we all want to live in a world that’s less impulsive, less violent, less partisan. We want to live in a world that’s more caring, more responsible and more mature.
Making that happen starts with our own behavior.