There really is no reason for us to fight or argue. And yet, we do. We argue about everything. We argue about politics. We argue about prices. We argue about the difference between sauce or gravy. Come to think of it, I have seen people literally get upset about the direction the toilet paper roll was placed on the handle. And I get it. Everybody has a pet peeve.
Everyone has an agenda. Everyone has an opinion and everyone has the need to be heard. At the same time, everybody assumes their way is the right way.
As a kid, I remember coming home to tell my Old Man about one of the neighbors. This was a man who came out from his house to yell at me and some of my friends. He was screaming at us and threatening us. I explained what happened and my Father asked one simple question.
“What did you do?”
I explained, “I didn’t do anything.”
Then my Father asked, “So, this guy came running out of his house, for no reason, and threatened you and your friends. Is that right?”
He explained, “Because if he did, then we should go over there and find out why he did this.”
“But,” said The Old Man. “If you did something to make him come running out and yell, then you have to know that you had this coming.”
(I think they call this accountability.)
The truth is my friends and I were not innocent by any means. I’m not sure that being a young bunch of loud hooligans warranted death threats; but in all fairness, I knew there were issues around the town. I also knew this man was simply defending his neighborhood.
My Father explained, “I will always defend you. But when you’re wrong, you’re wrong.”
Then he asked, “So, let me ask you again. What did you do?”
Needless to say, the conversation ended there.
I have seen a change in our society. I have seen the need for social justice. However, I have also watched the pendulum swing too far in the other direction. It is amazing to me the way victimization has changed. Accountability still has its place. But at the same time, in our climate of social justice, does accountability change when culpability is on both sides?
It amazes me that I was pulled to the side after a school presentation. This happened in a town that shall remain nameless. I was asked to remove bullying from my discussion because the administrators did not want to shame anyone. I explained how this might empower a person who is bullied or feels bullied, but this was not their concern. They didn’t want the direction of shame to transfer because people might then gang up on the bullies. I had to think about this for a while. I had to change my presentation and switch my tactics but in my mind, I simply could not understand how the removal of truth can change the truth about our social problems.
I have seen bullying far more in the business world than in the hallways at school. And while true, I’ve never heard of a co-worker giving someone a wedgie in the boardroom just before a meeting, nor have I heard about an executive who shoved someone’s head in the toilet in the men’s room. Social media is now the new platform but back when I was in school, we used to write our lies about people on the bathroom walls. I have not seen this in any of the executive bathrooms. However, this does not mean that bullying does not exist nor does this mean the culture is not real. Instead, this means the focus and training needs to begin at the earlier stages in life. We have to purge this problem from a generational perspective.
I can say wholeheartedly that I have seen corporate bullying. I have seen this up-close and personal. I have seen people slander and degrade their colleagues. I have seen this happen for no other reason than to dismiss or cancel another person. Perhaps this happens for a sense of social survival. Or, perhaps this covers another underlying problem. And I wonder, where is the justice? Where are the social warriors when this happens?
I have been part of programs that were led by people who swore they were on the right side of the equation. They ran a program in which social and emotional intelligence as well as social and emotional sensitivity were paramount to their cause. Even here, I have watched slander take its course. I’ve seen the gathering of cliques and the different groupings of people. How different is this from the tables in the cafeteria at school? Everyone knows where the cool kids sit. Everyone knows where the troublemakers sit. And then there are the voiceless or the faceless who go unknown or unincluded and uninvited. Where do they sit?
I see this in the corporate world. I’ve seen this in both the blue collar shops and white collared offices. I see this and I wonder where my involvement is.
I think that in all fairness and with all transparency, I have to address my wrongs and my placement in this madness. I think that in order to improve and change the way I interact or involve myself with the social errors at hand, I have to be clear with my own inventory.
In his works on civil disobedience; Henry David Thoreau wrote, “What I have to do is see, at any rate, that I do not lend myself to the wrong which I condemn.”
Therefore, if I want to see change then I have to become the change I want to see. Should I find myself in the position to act out, then I have to address my truths and understand my reasoning. Should I dare to be honest, then I have to dare to change because, in fairness, my acts are motivated by my thoughts. Not all my thoughts are clear or virtuous.
If I’m being honest, every time I’ve reacted or responded in unhelpful ways, there was personal inventory behind my every move. Whether this was a means to find approval or acceptance or if my moves were plotted for a promotion in either a social or professional event – there is always a pathology behind our behavior. It would be a lie for me to exclude myself from this truth.
Why do we argue?
Why do we slander?
Why do we bully?
Why do we lie?
The answers are obvious and simple, but I don’t want to shame anybody. So, I’ll out myself. My inventory explains that this is because I am insecure. I am afraid. I am frightened that I won’t be included or invited.
I want to be part of the pack. Do you know why?
My fears of being judged or unliked are part of what kept me from being comfortable on my own. The most brilliant idea in my life was the idea to choose to stop looking for acceptance. I had to stop looking to take my report card home. It’s not always easy. I often fall into rejection-sensitive disorders and errors in my thinking. However, this is something that takes practice.
And practice makes perfect.