We have been taught opposites create a balance, and therefore cancel each other when they collide. We have been taught if we bring hate into a loving relationship it will be destroyed, if we smear what is ugly upon art it is no longer beautiful, or if doubt our spiritual beliefs they will be dispelled. But this isn’t true. What smothers these wondrous things are not their opposites, but indifference. Indifference is numbness. What was once vibrant, warm and bright becomes a stagnant void. It rots away sympathy, compassion, desire, and leaves emptiness in its wake.
Indifference impairs us in major ways. If we are good, but are indifferent to evil intent, we allow that evil to run wild. If we do not actively cause harm, but do not actively prevent it, we can become victim or even ruled by evil intent. This also applies to us. If we are good, with good intent, but are indifferent to how our actions impact others, we can cause harm.
How can that be? If we intend to do good…isn’t that enough?
It isn’t. What matters is how we impact the world, and if we create harm we must take accountability. Once we do, our indifference will be absolved and we can let love, beauty and belief thrive once more.
There is an epidemic running rampant…let’s discuss the difference between being rude, mean and a bully. Sometimes it’s hard to tell what is appropriate, or hard to sense how we make others feel. Ultimately if we make someone feel uncomfortable we have crossed a line. But, depending on how attentive we are, or how sensitive the accidental victim, it may not be easy to tell if a line has been crossed. This is when judgment and honestly enables us to be respectful.
Let’s apply this judgment and have an honest conversation…
When we are rude we are ignorant of how we may harm someone. This can be playful teasing amongst friends. This can be calling out awkward behavior, perhaps brashly or to embarrass, to prevent it from repeating. This can be a strong reaction that does not create an offensive pattern. When we are rude there is naivety and forgiveness. It is important to correct our behavior once we discover we have offended someone.
When we are mean we start to become indifferent. It lacks the levity and good nature of rudeness. It is the basis for a pattern that causes pain. Consider when we gossip. All in good fun, right? But gossiping is a gateway to cruelty. We enjoy people’s stories because they are interesting. Enjoying a shared story is respectful. Invading someone’s privacy and relishing in someone’s conflict breaks trust. Instead of investing in constructing ourselves, we invest in destructing others. But this mean spirit has redemption…all we have to do is acknowledge the suffering we caused and atone to it.
A bully is cruel by intent. He attacks to destroy, and to satisfy something left unwanted within him. This festering doubt commands his insecurities to strike at others when the scale is tipped in his favor. A bully assaults the weak, and takes advantage of the powerless. Perhaps the would-be victim isn’t as physically or mentally capable. Perhaps it is someone younger, or a child. Or perhaps it is an animal…a non-human will…and does not have the same protections as people, but is capable of suffering just the same.
Being rude or mean may cross the line that can be forgiven. But a bully’s actions shouldn’t be tolerated. Everyone is accountable to dull the slash of a bully’s whip by standing up to intolerant, bigoted or malicious behavior. No bully has a right to make someone feel small, or to make someone feel disqualified as a person just by being who they are. Good people cannot remain good if they are indifferent to a bully by let them act as they do.
May all good people acknowledge their power to prevent suffering. I guarantee you, no matter how small it may seem it will make a tremendous difference to someone.