A Re-booting Requirement: Growing a Thicker Skin

One of the growing societal trends that alarms me the most is the tacit encouragement given to people who shriek about how offended they are by something another person said or did. (As though it’s the worst thing in the world to have hurt feelings.) What nearly always follows is some insincere apology by the accused, promising that they never intended to offend anyone, and are sorry to those they may have harmed. Harmed?!? They’re words not bullets! Talk about first world problems. You think anyone is running around Syria apologizing for whatever hurt feelings they may have caused? It’s at times like these when the old nursery rhyme Sticks and Stones can be useful. There’s a lot of wisdom in this little ditty.


While it’s true that there are some historical words and symbols that have been used to intimidate, diminish, and malign various groups, the hair trigger sensitivity that exists today shocks me—university speech codes are a prime example of the victim mindset that is hijacking our culture. The fact of the matter is, everybody has their feelings hurt at one point or another, and everybody causes offense, whether intentionally or not. It happens. It just does. But these days, whenever I turn around, one group or another is expressing righteous indignation at some perceived insult—I fear that serving as the spokesperson for such groups will soon be listed in the official Occupational Outlook Handbook!


Where has our perspective gone? Why would we give so much power to someone who has (allegedly) maligned us that we then scream in indignation? Why not just ignore them and get on with our day? A nation of red faced, fuming, fulminating fools does nobody any good and certainly does little to promote the peace.


Case in point: recently, a group of art students at Santa Barbara City College erected a teepee on the campus grounds that was intended to promote dialogue between community members. The students plugged the project by advertising on Facebook what they called “Tea in the Teepee.” A couple of Indian students protested that the erection of the teepee was offensive and demeaning to them. They claimed that the art students had misappropriated a cultural symbol that wasn’t theirs. As a result, the teepee was dismantled and removed.


Now, I have many problems with this, but I will focus on the taking offense aspect. What I would ask the school administrators is: why does one small group get to determine what is or is not insulting? And even if they find something provocative, why is that the determining factor in whether the project stays or goes—especially at a place of “learning”? Further, why is being offended such an egregious condition that there must be a remedy? I would ask the protestors this: by claiming that the teepee is a part of a long tradition of negative stereotypes instead of trumpeting its use as a practical source of shelter, aren’t you hastening its demise? Why would you want to eradicate a symbol of Indian life if it’s part of your identity? Additionally, what could you possibly mean by claiming the teepee is “misappropriated” when used by anyone other than an Indian? Does this line of thinking apply to all cultures? Should only French people be allowed to prepare and eat French food? Should only Americans be allowed to play baseball? Is it a “cultural misappropriation” if someone other than a native Chinese receives acupuncture treatments? How far does your line of argument extend, beyond who may or may not “appropriately” build a teepee?


I have two points I’d like to make: 1. When you feel offended, what you are doing is giving other people power over you. Why would you do that? Why grant them that power? What they say or do is far more about them than it is about you.


Of course, there are times in our lives when we hit a pothole or two. Something goes wrong—you do something foolish and go bankrupt, your kid wrestles with addiction, your best friend runs off with your spouse—it doesn’t matter what it is, only that you’re sensitive about what happened. There will always, and I mean always, be someone who gossips about it. If this were to happen, I’d remind you that while nobody likes feeling criticized or ridiculed, don’t make their words out to be more than they are—they’re just one person’s words/conclusions. Your hurt will fade away (if you let it). You cause trouble for yourself when you blow things out of proportion.


The same is true for our re-booting journey. When you start doing things differently, this may upset/threaten someone close to you. They may even claim that your new attitude hurts and offends them. 2. Just because they feel hurt doesn’t mean you’ve done anything hurtful! (Think: teepee)


Nonsense needs to be recognized for what it is.




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One Response to “A Re-booting Requirement: Growing a Thicker Skin”

  1. Jim Patterson Says:

    Good job Chrisanna.

    I like to use the phrase “It is NOT always about us” when we assume that others nastiness or rudeness is directed towards us when in fact they are just having a bad day.

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