In our continuing quest to re-examine and measure the validity long excepted idioms and axioms–in other words, axiometry–here’s another one that I’m sure we all encountered in our youth, especially if you grew up in the United States: “Sharing is caring.”
This one sounds simple enough on the surface, but what does this really mean? What does “sharing is caring” really entail? In what context is this axiom commonly used in?
First, let’s review what it is I’m trying to do here. In the initial post in this series, I defined our mission, and this made-up term, thusly:
Axiom: “A rule or principle that many people accept as true.”
-metry: “Art, process, or science of measuring.”
I want to measure these axioms to determine whether we should accept them as true.
Why? Because it’s fun to think about things like this, and it’s even more fun to share these thoughts with you.
We’ll think about this axiom and judge it in a bogus low-budget legalistic manner, as is my wont.
I contend that the phrase “Sharing is Caring” is meaningless and ultimately distorts the true meaning of sharing, implanting a false idea of the concept into children’s minds.
Let’s perform some axiometry!
I have a four-year-old son. He has gone to pre-school before, and currently attends a Montessori school. I think stuff like this is great because, while I am a fan of homeschooling, there’s nothing wrong with little kids hanging out with other little kids: they have fun, and learn to deal with each other.
A part of this, obviously, has to do with sharing resources like toys, food, crayons, and so on.
My son says “sharing is caring.” And I would find that my wife and I would say it back to him.
“Sharing” is defined in relevant part as “to divide and distribute” and “to grant or give a share in.”
Simple enough. In the case of “sharing is caring,” I understand the intent of it, but the actual outcome really bothers me: it implies that other people are entitled to what you have, and vice versa.
Think about it: When do you see this expression used by little kids? Most often, when one kid is playing with a toy that another kid wants to use. “Sharing is caring,” the teacher will say, “so now let so-and-so play with it.”
Hold on. Why? Was that first kid’s turn with the toy over? Maybe he just picked it up; he had to give it away now because the second kid is complaining? When does the second kid have to give it back?How about the kid who was impatient for the toy wait until the kid who got it first is done?
What right does that second kid have to the toy the first kid is using?
Am I getting way too deep into interactions between our kids? Hardly. In fact, I think we’d be better off teaching kids patience and how to wait their turn instead of teaching them that they have a right to somebody else’s time or property.
It also would be good to teach the first kid that, when he is finished, he should give it to the next kid in line.
I’m going to get religious for a bit, so if this sort of thing turns you off you have been warned. But charity is a hugely important concept for Christians (note: I am only discussing Christianity because it is the religion I am most familiar with. Any omission of other faith traditions is not meant as a slight).
Jesus Christ said that what we do to the least among us, is as if we did it to him. The implication here is that you should be charitable and give what you have to those less fortunate, taking care of re sick, the poor, and so on.
However, this must be done voluntarily and with loving one’s heart, or else it is meaningless. Saint Paul goes over all of this in his oft-quoted passage from 1 Corinthians.
Enforced giving, for no other reason than you hbd to, without any love or any rules mandating it, isn’t really “sharing” now, is it?
Sharing for sharing’s is not bad, and sharing is in fact caring when it is done from the bottom of one’s heart with love, as we discussed above.
Also, we do need to live with each other, don’t we? All education is indoctrination, after all,so we should make sure we’re teaching good lessons.
But enforced sharing, and the idea that somebody else is entitled to what you have just because, isn’t really sharing. The second rhymkng in this axiom is the key:
Now, if there have been previously established ground rules for the use of some toy or whatnot–and kids do generally understand rules and structure–then I can see the use of this axiom reinforcing their obligation to play by the same rules everybody else is playing by; no double standards here.
“Sharing is caring” is heretofore rated INCOMPLETE BASED ON CONTEXTUAL DEPENDENCE. By omitting the voluntary aspect of sharing, it really teaches entitlement.
Why teach kids that whining and appealing to authority is what they need to do to get their way? Why not teach kids to find something else to do with another little one is using a toy that they want? Why do we make the kid that got the toy first feel guilty about enjoying it?
Final Recommendation: “Sharing is caring” is perfectly fine where love is involved, sharing is voluntary and not enforced, or when used in a situation where charity and friendliness can be taught. Turn-taking is another valuable context, especially when clearly understood ground rules are present.
Otherwise, the axiom as its commonly used kind of teaches that complaining and appealing to authority will get you what you want, a lesson in sure nobody intends to teach…I hope.
Damn, I really want to down a rabbit hole here, didn’t I? But this is important, because words have power. The ideas that word embody seep into our minds and inform what we do and how we think far more than we realize.
And yet, it doesn’t really take all that much of an examination to get to the bottom of what’s these ideas truly mean.
Once again, I thank you for going on this rather esoteric journey with me, and I hope that we have many more axioms to mull over and over analyze.
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