”If something uncharitable is said in your presence, either speak in favor of the absent, or withdraw, or, if possible, stop the conversation.” ~ St. John Vianney
Ever since I was in 7th grade I have had a hot button about bullying and prejudice. That year some of the girls in my class got caught passing a Slam Book around. We viewed it as a harmless way to make fun of people and be exclusionary. anyone who was asked to participate in the Slam Book procedure mistakenly considered it an honor. When our teacher intercepted the book, those of us who had participated got in a LOT of trouble. Her disappointment in us rang loud and clear. She pointed out how harmful such a “little harmless fun” is.
She poignantly tied her message to the Civil Rights efforts at the time, the women’s suffragette movement, the abolitionist movement, and many other movements. She pointed out over and over again that when you minimize, marginalize, or humiliate someone, it is bullying and evil. Then she had us spearhead efforts to be inclusionary in our class, school, and community. She assigned various group projects and put people from various cliques in with each other. No single small group had more than 1 member from a single clique. We soon discovered that there was so much in each person to love. She was alert for new signs of clique-ish behavior. She was SO wise.
She taught us a lesson for life. As a result, when people are being marginalized etc I tend to react and stick up for them. At least I do this for awhile.Sometimes it changes their attitude; sometimes it doesn’t, but they stop behaving that way around me. However, if it seems to me that there will either be no impact if I react and protest what they are saying, or that I will make them dig their heels in even more~then I separate from them. I feel at those points that my presence is condoning the behavior.
I guess the questions I ask myself are:
- if they are marginalizing people that I disagree with, can I still defend their right to dignity and respect? If not, am I only interested in defending my friends?
- if these people are saying these things about people that strike me as cruel or humiliating about people that I agree with, how can I defend calmly. Furthermore, I cannot help but wonder what they would say about me knowing or if they did know that I have the same beliefs or experience as the people they are marginalizing.
- if they are bullying, can I interject my opinion in a calm and non-bullying way? If not, I must separate myself from the discussion. I must not permit myself to protest bullying by engaging in bullying behavior.
- have I participated in the discussion with these people in the past and still been unable to get them to either believe they are bullying and stop it OR at least get them to stop it in my presence? If that is the case, I must resist the urge to jump in the fray.
Why am I offering all of this advice? Frankly, I have no idea whatsoever. It was in my heart, and I felt like sharing it. Perhaps it is because I need to remind myself! God bless your day today.