Intent is immaterial if the impact results in those individuals targeted feeling disrespected, incapable, incompetent, fearful and anxious, not knowing when the next barbed comment will pierce and destabilize the fragile self that lives within each of them and each of us.
If you see them, stop them.
If you don’t you’re as guilty as the person doing it. Bullies are in our schools, our homes, our neighborhoods. They’re in our companies, our social media; invited and uninvited.
If you see them, stop them.
There is no place in as civilized a community as we aspire, to allow our friends, our neighbors, our families, our colleagues to be affected needlessly from words used so carelessly, heedlessly and harmfully.
The sliding scale from teasing and joking to bullying is a slippery one; its items best defined by the one who’s the target, not the one with the weapon. What starts out as “Just kidding”, “Can’t you take a joke?” can escalate depending on the intended’s reaction to it. Given that teasing is a way of exaggerating mistakes or perceived limitations, there’s no fun in it for the person on the receiving end. Adults who’ve grown up teased, tormented, and targeted have had their fill and won’t take kindly to it in the workplace or anyplace. Nor should they. Adults who’ve grown up without boundaries, who believe they can say or do whatever they please, will find those boundaries do exist, and often in unexpected places.
“I don’t know why she gets so upset when he makes fun of her. He doesn’t mean anything by it.”
Who are you to say? What right do any of us have to determine what is funny… at another’s expense?
Words hurt. Whether lobbed softly or slammed from a bat, they land and find their way inside our heads and our hearts. They curl up and spend the night, waking us as they awaken, asking the questions we have no answers to… “Why did she say that?” What did he mean?” “What should I do?” “Who heard it?” What do they think?” and on…
If you’ve been ever been taunted, disrespected, disregarded, minimized, or worse… you know what it looks like, sounds like, feels like. And that experience enables you to glimpse what life is like for those who have it far worse, as many do. So stand up for yourself and stand up for those whose voice is not heard, despite their repeated calls for help, for “Look here”, for “Why must I accept what you would never allow?”
Life isn’t an equal opportunity overseer. Flood, famine, and violence attacks and affects the guilty and innocent, the rich and poor, the haughty and humble. We have neither power nor ability to harness what is greater than our combined capability to eradicate.
But we can control the urge to make others feel small so that we can feel big. We can muster the moral courage it takes to do the right thing for no reason greater than doing less debases who we are as members of a civilized society.