How To Avoid Condoning

‎”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.

About Kate Kresse

I love to write, I love to talk, I love to uplift people when I can. I am a woman in love with life. I am a wife, mom, tutor, writer, and I am a perennial optimist. (OK not every single minute but you get the point! :-)
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19 Responses to How To Avoid Condoning

  1. Kana Tyler says:

    You’ve probably seen the movie “Mean Girls”–your post brought it to mind. Some good solid lessons in that film! 🙂

  2. Caddo Veil says:

    Hi Sis–I SO love it when you give us an exhortation (always nice, never bullying) and then you get to the end (not always, but sometimes, like today) and say that you’re not sure why you’re offering the advice, but it was on your heart–and just maybe, because you needed to hear it. You’re just so dang cute and sweet! And God bless you for speaking/writing whatever He puts on your heart to share! Seriously, I always figure if there’s even One person out there who needed to read what I write, then I’ve faithfully served His Purpose for my being here–so there you go, my 2 cents worth!! God bless your weekend–we’re having a Perry Como’s “Bluest Skies You’ve Ever Seen Are in Seattle” day–hurray!!! love, sis Caddo

    • Kate Kresse says:

      Thanks Caddo! I know for one thing I needed to get my own head straight in case I am going to spend anytime on FB today LOL! I know there have been times when it didn’t occur to me until after the fact that I should ‘leap to someone’s defense’. I hate when that happens….I guess that we are given many opportunities to rectify situations….and hopefully we will serve Him however we ccan. Glad it is beautiful up in Seattle :-). God bless your day.

  3. gwen07 says:

    I advised a high school group – Students Against Violence And Discrimination (SAVAD) for 14 years before retiring from the Classroom in -08. I made the group inclusive – as the only African American teacher in the high school it took some time to get most students to believe this group was for everyone – not just the few minority students. This group’s moto was: BE GOOD BY DOING GOOD stemming from the idea that you can’t really sit back and boo-hoo about your life when you are doing good deeds for others. We put on halloween shows for young kids, took bus loads of students to NYC every year, honored veterans every veterans’ day and many more events. (I was never paid for this – if I were a sports coach I would have gotten paid I suppose). I found it unnerving how some teachers could overlook (and in some cases engage in) bullying of those students considered – uncool. For many years it was an uphill battle for me – confederate flags, swastikas on desks – few teachers stood openly with me in my fight. I became the trouble maker. Speaking of “MEan Girls” there were a group of young teachers who could have written the book, trying as they were, to relive their own high school days. I write this to say – kate I needed to read this. I miss teaching young people – but sometimes the adults make it more difficult. Your teacher is to be praised to the heavens.

    • Kate Kresse says:

      Gwen~what an amazing thing you did with SAVAD. You changed those students’ lives that you cannot even begin to imagine today. What an excellent idea you have. It should be established nationwide, really. How empowering to instill that motto in their minds and have them busily doing good for others.

      I know what you mean about some teachers overlooking and bullying students considered to be uncool. It has happened to some of the students I tutored, and it happened to my son. I know, too, about some teachers acting like “Mean Girls”. It is sad that some people never get beyond that horrible mindset. You were an amazing teacher for those high school students to have. I am so grateful that you shared this story today. I am dismayed, to say the least, that you went through heck in your efforts to change these students’ lives. Swastikas and confederate flags? shame on them.

      As ever, I stand in awe of you and your efforts and contributions. Not only should my teacher be praised to the heavens, Gwen. So, my friend, should you. I know that you continue to role model and change lives at your college, in your community, and through your blog. Thanks for commenting. I always love it when you stop by.

  4. AlohaKarina says:

    This line: “She pointed out over and over again that when you minimize, marginalize, or humiliate someone, it is bullying and evil.”

    If people would just get that, we would all be so much better off. That is the heart of the whole post for me. Awesome.

  5. eof737 says:

    Well said… any time we make people feel less than, it is a form of bullying and abuse… Sadly the behavior persists. Speaking up is important.

  6. This is an excellent reminder to us all. You do not need to know clearly why you wrote this, where it came from, Because we really do know.

    I’d like to see this very piece shared and published in our schools and even our churches. If we can get adults, ALL adults on board, where zero tolerance really does exist than there would be so much more hope for our children. The expectations for all of us would be very much the same.

    That is why you write this Dearest Kate. Now hopefully with your permission we can spread your words.

    • Kate Kresse says:

      Go for it. Anyone that wants to re-post—-please do so…and thanks, dear Baroness. If you get a chance, look at Gwen’s comment above and see the amazing efforts that she put forth to change things at her high school. If adults would get on board, then the adults that bully would recognize the bullying that they are doing and put a stop to it as well, I hope! Love to you ~

    • @Gwen07:
      Well, the rest of the reply:
      Have teachers given up trying to make a difference?
      These late generations, since the feel good, me first evolution have followed the ideal that others do not matter as long as I get mine. It is so sad that teachers are not allowed to instruct ethics, morality and temperance – and it shows when our leaders are involved in crime against the citizens who elected them, young people are arrested for the slightest insult rather, and others are allowed to run wild at will – no discipline, no compassion for their fellow students.
      My mother taught us that if we couldn’t say something nice about someone, keep quiet. But there comes a time when we must speak up for our friends who are left out of the group because they don’t fit in with the crowd.
      You are the teacher students will remember as the teacher who made a difference in their life. Hopefully, some will model themselves from your example.

  7. There’s always that wonderful quip you shared before: “I’m sorry, did you know you said that out loud?” Have loved that and used it once, already!
    When my children would lamblast each other, I made them sit across a table from each other until they could say one nice thing about the other. I guess that was sort of the same idea. Sometimes it took hours. Poor dears. 😉
    I wonder what would happen if the teacher started a book to pass around and be returned to her each day, with instructions to write one good thing about the personality of each person in class. Even the nice, cute, wealthy, popular ones suffer from pot shots from the trenches. Mean girls also hate each other. Wealthy adult women often have few or no true friends.
    It can be a sad and lonely world. How ridiculous to be lonely with billions of people all around us!

    • Kate Kresse says:

      Great idea to do that with children. I read a story once about a teacher that did something like that with her class..I will see if i can find that. and you are right, even the popular ones get picked on. Everyone is worthy of loving, respectful treatment. I hope that someday the bullying will cease and respect will spread. all we can do is try to do that ourselves and defend the maligned. Thanks for the comments!

  8. Your teacher was uncommonly wise! So many times teachers fail to remember that students are participating and acting in various forms of bullying without a well-developed consciousness as to how dangerous it can be. Young people seem to be naturally more exclusionary in certain stages of life, and for your teacher to begin to dissolve the cliques in such a strategic way was really excellent. With the spotlight today on how vicious and murderous bullying has become, I shudder and want to cry at the stories we hear. There is something really dark and troubling about the hearts of so many young people today. I sometimes see how a prime bully can “jump the tracks” but how others stand by and let it happen is the mystery. And when we allow ANY gossip into our lives and participate in it even by condoning it through not standing up, we have a little bullying of our own. That’s something I always have to think about…even at my age it’s amazing how much gossip lands at my feet. Good message this morning, Kate…even if you don’t know why you wanted to share it. 🙂 Debra

    • Kate Kresse says:

      The key at the beginning was to remove any possibility of cliques. This included who got to work on group projects together. These days when the students are constantly seated in groups facing each other, and constantly working in groups, this become a gateway to institutionalized bullying. It has become acceptable for students to say”no you can’t be in our group” and the child goes from group to group trying to get someone to let him be part of their group. Eventually the child searching for a group gets in trouble for wandering around the classroom….yep….saw it happen, year after year after year….complaints went unheeded. As Gwen said above, not only are the kids bullying, but some teachers are doing it too, but they may not even realize the impact. You are right, Debra~we have to constantly hold our own feet to the fire.

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