I have often been accused of being a bully, of being intimidating and threatening. And, sadly, it’s part of why many people consider me more “mannish” than “feminine.”
I have firm convictions, and I stand on a foundation of my principles. In fact, it has in the past caused an argument between myself and my current boyfriend, because he told me I was (as I was in the habit of doing with my ex) excusing someone for doing something my principles and ethics say is wrong.
When someone appeals to your “sympathy and compassion” it can sadly be an attempt to manipulate you to make an exception in your principles and convictions. My ex was a virtuoso of doing so.
Yes, justice must be tempered by mercy, but that does not mean that the consequences of someone’s choice is given a “get out of jail free” card.
This post isn’t just about the issue of rude vs. mean vs. bully vs. abuse, but also about the giving of offense and taking of offense.
First, some simple definitions.
- Discourteous, impolite, rough, harsh or ungentle
- Offensive, selfish, unaccommodating, nasty, malicious, small-minded
- Intimidate; domineer; to be arrogant or overbearing; one who hurts, persecutes or intimidates someone who is considered weaker, vulnerable or inferior
- GIVING OFFENSE:
- The intention to attack, violate, or assault another breaking the law, the social contract, or a moral rule
- TAKING OFFENSE:
- To feel attacked, violated or assaulted, regardless of the other person’s intent
In essence, to be rude is to say something, do something, or make a choice about something that is thoughtless, inconsiderate, or selfish without any awareness that doing so may or may not hurt someone else. To be mean is to intentionally do those things in order to cause pain and/or suffering to someone else. To bully means to be standing from a position of power, authority and/or (yes, this bugaboo) privilege and to be mean to someone weaker, vulnerable or somehow inferior.
I will personally admit that I am sometimes quite rude. Sometimes it is intentional, and sometimes it is not. The intentional rudeness is meant to shock someone out of their complacency and is intended to get them to think about a subject that they have ignored to the detriment of others. This can also be called being “blunt.” And I warn every single human being I come into contact with (that I intended to maintain contact with) that I am an extremely blunt person. And yes, I have had people thank me for the warning and walk away, because they cannot handle someone who is blunt. That is a reasonable choice. They are not rejecting me, they are simply laying down a limitation that has the consequence of not being in my life. In fact, I respect that and consider it to be a positive choice.
I am rarely mean. I have absolutely NO desire to cause suffering in another person, unless that suffering would be justice for their own poor choices. And even then, I would prefer karma take care of that punishment. Only if it is forced on me will I cause someone else suffering.
As for bullying, I rarely consider any mature adult to be “inferior” to me. Different? Yes. Have different experiences and opinions? Yes. I don’t choose to abuse any power or authority I might have over anyone. But if it is just an interaction between two or more adults, discussing an issue on which they have a difference of opinion, it is NOT bullying to state your opinion of the issue, even if it is strongly worded. I will probably not agree with the other person’s opinion, but the discussion is a place for both points of view to be discussed. Shutting someone else down for a differing opinion, unless they are being actually attacking is simply censorship, particularly if one person has some form of authority over another.
And that’s where the giving and taking of offense come in. Just because I may be stating an unpopular opinion does not mean I have any intent to attack or offend anyone else. I can only control what I say and what I intend to say. If someone at that point chooses to feel attacked or offended, I did not necessarily do anything wrong – but from the perspective of the other person, I must somehow have intended to upset them in some way.
I will no longer let people like that stay in my life. If you cannot be bothered to ask my intentions instead of assuming the worst of me, I’m gone.