When I was a kid, one of the most popular mind games was “Yo’ Mama”. For those unfamiliar with “Yo’ Mama” (Heh :grin:) The point of the game was to out-insult the opposition. Or make him or her cry–whichever came first. I figured out early on that the person who gave the most vitriolic, mean-spirited responses was also the one who would cry as soon as the crowd turned on him or her. As long as they had the support of the group, they were all in, grinning and laughing. When a person made fun of them or their mama, they got angry.
I have been a loner since I was very young. I found out during those recess games of “Yo mama” that when you continually count on the crowd to back you up, you are nurturing your own weakness. Often, I find myself speaking to teenagers about this topic. I always preach about individuality, about them being true to the person they were created to be, and ignoring all the haters. I conveniently leave out how difficult it was for me to be an individual, how my true self was stifled by peers who felt threatened by me, and how “ignoring all the haters” typically meant that I spent most of my breaks with the school librarian. (Or off campus with my friend who had a car)
There’s a cost to being who you really are, but, man, does it every pay off when you’re older. When you’re young, older seems like a far away land that you don’t have to think about until you get there. Believe it or not, it’s closer than you think. And what you do not want to do is spend your time living by who the crowd thinks you should be.
Being an outsider either defeats you to the point of wishing your own death (or acting upon it. Tragically, this happens far too often), makes you bitter, passive-aggressive, and controlling, or it makes you stronger and more independent–but only after you’ve lived through the first two. (It also gives you a laundry list of issues, including, PTSD, anxiety, and depression, but that’s another story for another day)
I had the benefit of having two parents who went through being teased as children, and used different ways of coping. My mother focused more on her academic life and became an activist and a counselor. My father learned how to fight and bullies pretty much left him alone. My parents raised me to stand up for what is right even if I have to stand alone, to be quiet, work hard, and mind my own business, and not to take anything said against me personally.
Most of the time, the people who set out intentionally to wound others are broken themselves. They don’t understand what it’s like to live confidently, so they mistake it for arrogance and try to destroy that quality in others out of fear. I didn’t understand this until I grew up. Bullies are rarely mean people. They’re just hurt and insecure. And whichever way that insecurity manifests itself, either through self-loathing, narcissism, or arrogance, it is damaging to everyone they come into contact with.
But I digress.
My father once told me, “If you can’t throw a decent punch, you’d better keep your mouth shut.” (Once a fighter, always a fighter :razz:) He told me that I can’t be mouthy if I am not able to defend myself if someone takes my words to heart and decides to punch me in the face. By the same token, if you can’t take someone criticizing you, don’t be critical. If you can’t take a sarcastic jab, don’t make them. If you don’t want to be manipulated, don’t be manipulative. If you don’t want to be judged harshly, don’t judge anyone else.
And if you can’t take the heat, for God’s sake, stay away from the kitchen.
“A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare.” Proverbs 15:1
Live well everyone,