|Posted on May 24, 2016 at 12:35 AM|
From the time we are small children, the adults in our lives admonish us for calling other people names. Ask any teacher or parent and they will back me up on this; we don’t like it when we hear a child call another child stupid, or a dummy, or any other derogatory name. And with good reason. It isn’t nice. It’s hurts the other person. And the one act that prompted the name calling isn’t representative of who that person really is, and once labeled it makes it so much more difficult to see them accurately, or with compassion. On the flip side we also teach children that name calling is a form of bullying and a way to make the name caller feel superior or better about themselves. So in general, we take a stance that says we should not belittle others by labeling them in a negative way. Or at least until you (chronologically) grow up.
Once you become sensitive to this issue, you realize just how often adults call each other names, and how similar most of them are to the ones you heard in fourth grade! Dumbass, the grown up version of dummy, is common. Idiot has reached epic levels of overuse. Asshat (shows guilt by raising own hand), has gained popularity in the last few years. Trash and more commonly, white trash, surprisingly still used. Loser also popular. And then there are the names that have gained a toxicness to them; conservative, liberal, Christian, Muslim, New Ager, working mom, intellectual, stay at home mom. Depending on the speaker and the context, these labels can feel like a guilty verdict. And of course, there is an unlimited supply of more colorful and vulgar names.
And if we are at all honest, most of us have committed most of the atrocities that prompt us to angrily spew names at others. We have made gross errors in judgement. We have been pre-occupied careless drivers. We have been rude, or insensitive, to others. We have unknowingly done something that harmed another when our intentions were good. I don’t know about you, but I can take a walk down memory lane on any given day and wonder, “What the hell was I thinking?” “Where was my brain” “Where was my common sense?” We get busy, we don’t pay attention, we forget to take others’ perspective, and often we don’t think ahead to the consequences of our behavior. Just yesterday in the store, in the middle of trying to figure something out, a woman smiled at me. The smile registered about a full five seconds after the fact. I turned around and she was gone. And how many times have I mentioned grumpy people who don’t return a simple smile?
We are all a product of our experiences and our environments. Some of us have been privileged to have and recognize great teachers and mentors along the way. Some of us learn more quickly than others. What seems simple and obvious to one person can be unfamiliar and obscure to another. Given another set of genetics and background we would each be capable of what may, in this moment, seem unimaginable. So let’s give others the benefit of the doubt. Let’s give some leeway for errors on the freeway and in judgement. Let's abandon the idea that we are better or smarter than others. Let’s set our intentions for kindness and patience. We all grow and flourish and learn the best under those circumstances. I’m pretty sure no good has ever come from me muttering “asshat” under my breath….