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  • Writer's pictureNeal Hagberg

Brainwashed at TLC?

Sometime in the last year, I was telling TLC co-founder, Barb Wilkinson, about a tennis mom who said she would never send her child to TLC because “they brainwash them there about sportsmanship, and I don’t want my child to be taken advantage of in tournaments.”  My tendency, upon hearing things like that, is to get defensive.

Barb, however, took a startlingly different approach.  She agreed with the mom.

She said, “We do brainwash people.”

I must have looked taken aback, and she noticed and continued.

“Everybody is brainwashed in this world.  It’s just a matter of how you want your brain washed.”It is one of the most powerful lessons I have learned in my life.


I went back and thought more.  We can wash our brains with fear, or hatred, or bitterness.  We can wash them with jealousy or refusal to be “taken advantage of”.  We can wash them with an eye for an eye.  We can wash them with terror or cut throat tactics.  We can wash them with justification of ill-gotten gains, or little lies that ball up into big lies and come crashing down the mountain destroying everyone in its wake.  We can wash them with an attitude of entitlement and bringing our children along with us so they learn the same lesson.

We can wash them the way Nazis washed the brains of millions of otherwise good people to buy into a genocide of the Jewish people.  Or the way all of us good people have defended our actions when it comes to turning a blind eye to injustice done to those who look, love, or believe differently than we do.  Or the way we all have turned away from those with less than us.

Or, as Barb suggested, we can wash them with compassion for our enemy, fair play for our opponent, making amends for our mistakes, becoming aware of our blind spots on and off the court, starting over with a renewed commitment to kindness, standing up to injustice, admitting the injustice within ourselves even as we stand up to that injustice, listening, listening, listening before we act.  We can wash our brains with the commitment to take a positive step when adversity hits, to give our all in the face of certain defeat, to treat others the way they would like to be treated.

Brainwashing is a constant battle in all our lives.  None of us are fully one or the other of the above-mentioned actions.

But once we become aware of the negative brainwashing we have been taught, which has become an unconscious part of us, we can act to rewash our brain.

The choice, always, is ours.  How we decide to wash our brains will determine what our relationships look like, what our families look like, our schools, our country, our world.

Thank you for a lesson I think about so often now, Barb.  And please pass me the Three Crowns soap.  I need it more than ever.

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