What about those people who believe they are justified to tell others how they really feel about their intolerable lifestyle or their life choices, the way they look or they way they dress? Maybe you think that people who are different choose to be that way, are calling attention to themselves, deserve to be called out for their outrageous behavior? Maybe you believe that you are doing them a huge favor to let them know how you feel? But how can you be certain that your values or opinions are the only correct ones? Perhaps it is even written down in law that these choices are wrong. Who gave you the job of vigilante or Supreme Court Judge? For those of us who believe in government as an authority, let the government be the authority! For those of you who believe in religious texts as the final authority and judgment, acknowledge your own fallibility and leave it to the higher power to provide this judgment! Often we spend so much time deciding what is right or wrong, we forget we are not the only say, the only opinion of worth. And if there is human value and human worth, it cannot be taken away by a behavior or a lifestyle. All people have value and it does not make sense for you to reason that they do not possess this because you may disapprove of some of their beliefs or actions. And as we are seeing, there may be more consequences for providing this judgment.
Now what about those of you who are not being bullied or victimized at the moment- maybe you are tolerant of others and believe “to each their own”, all people are free to make their own choices. What happens when you are a witness to intolerance or cruelty? In a place like New York City, it is so easy to walk by these acts as if you had seen nothing at all, or think “what can I do”? But what if all tolerant people like you are thinking that same thought, that they are powerless and it would only hurt them to get involved? As you might have guessed, the true way to decrease acts of intolerance may be to not tolerate it, but rather to cause attention to it and to raise your voice.
I am not suggesting you put yourself at risk of physical harm, but perhaps take the risk of social embarrassment or rejection from your peers by speaking up. I think most of us have experienced that when we do not live by our convictions and we don’t act as we think we preferably should, we feel remorse or sometimes guilt, due to our thoughts about our inaction. I would encourage all people to live by their convictions so they never regret inaction. Standing up to intolerance does have an effect, even if the effect is only on that one person you are standing up for.
Please see Bullying (Part I) of this post.
Next up: James Strickland, Ph.D. on Assertiveness