Home > Communication, Parenting, Safety, Uncategorized > Your belief is irrelevant.

Your belief is irrelevant.

I believe in goodness and light. I like to live these things as often as I am able.

Sometimes, these things are not effective in light of the circumstances. Sometimes, a different set of tools need be laid out on the table for the world to see.

If, for example, you are a woman walking alone and being stalked one night, you might not deter your stalker by singing Disney songs to remind him of all the sweetness in the world. If, on the other hand, you turn around, methodically pull out your pony tail holder so your hair is no longer an easily manipulated handle, and then openly analyze his every feature for later police identification, you might be lucky enough to have him stop and turn tail.

It worked for me.

Every couple of runs for most of the time I’ve been a runner, I’ve encountered a stranger who felt it important to call me “fatty,” “tubby,” “lard-bucket,” or some other variant of “fat.” I’ve never bothered responding, for reasons in the title: Your belief is irrelevant.

The friends of these words’ speakers have by and large been silent. Twice, though, I’ve given a thumbs-up over my shoulder. Once, a buddy said, “At least she be working out!” Another time, a woman said to her probably-partner, “I have never been more ashamed of you than I am right now.”

Good on you guys for speaking up!

Two weeks ago, I got prettied up for a rare evening out. Beaming as I strolled toward beer and Fright Night, I was startled when a boy of roughly seventeen years said, “Look at that fatty, fat rolls all hanging down over her belt!”

His three friends were silent as all moved by me. I stopped, turned around and said with a genuine smile, “At least I have a vocabulary, my friend!”

If I was startled, he was flat-out shocked. Fumbling for words, he mumbled something he concluded with an eloquent, “Fatty!”

I showed him my merriest smile and flipped him the bird.

He continued shouting, but my work was done. I kept smiling as I moved again toward the bar.

Since that evening, I’ve wondered why I stopped and said something that time. “Out of sight, out of mind” has been my modus operandi for much of my life. What’s changed?

Tonight it hit me: I’m a profoundly different person than I was the last time I heard those words.

I’m a more practical one.

I’m a mom.

I may laugh at that teen’s hateful words, which indicate to me his own wounds time will hopefully heal. But while I–as my dear friend and former colleague Pieté can attest!–am comfortable telling others, “Your belief is irrelevant,” there are many others who don’t yet have that comfort in themselves. Such hateful words may sting and cause them a great deal of agony.

It’s for those people I felt it important that passing bully not be left to think he had hurt me by his words. He hadn’t. His belief? Irrelevant.

More importantly, I wanted him to think about the possible consequences of his words.

If manners alone won’t stop him from taunting others, perhaps the comprehension he cannot control or predict their hearers’ responses will. So what if nine out of ten people walk away with tears in their eyes or a sting in their hearts?

If courtesy and love for fellow human beings won’t do it, maybe it’s fear for what that tenth person might do that will. That tenth person may have finally seen the last straw of restraint broken, so that he bodyslams the hell out of his taunter because he just cannot take it anymore.

So, friends who like to taunt and malign? If occasionally I stop and challenge you when you evidence mistaken belief that “strength in numbers” is “invincibility in numbers”? What I’m really saying is, “In the future, think again. Thinking again and holding those words might save you a trip to the ER.”

While I believe in goodness and light, I believe there are also circumstances where the threat of a punch in the nads is the only language someone will understand. In those cases, I believe Threattonads may, occasionally, be the right language to speak.

But what do I know? Like I’m so fond of saying, “[My/your/our] belief is irrelevant.”

We just learn little pieces of the truth as we go.

irrelevant

Originally posted August 28, 2011
Looking through search terms that led people to this blog, I saw this post’s title led many here before I accidentally deleted it and a couple hundred others. Revisiting it today, I found I really want this particular post to lead folks here again.

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  1. October 17, 2014 at 10:26 am

    Powerful wisdom you’ve got there.

    • October 18, 2014 at 4:48 am

      Thanks. It felt so good revisiting this … though it made me sad all over again about my daftness deleting it in the first place!

  2. Jen
    October 17, 2014 at 10:27 am

    This is an amazing post! I’m really glad you republished it!

    • October 18, 2014 at 4:51 am

      Thanks, Jen! After looking through the search terms, I think i”ll be reposting a few more … cathartic ones like this that it felt so good to release, and feels so empowering to experience anew.

  3. October 17, 2014 at 10:32 am

    Yup. And people who bully themselves become irrelevant when the stars align. Good for you, Deb!

    • October 18, 2014 at 4:53 am

      Thanks, Elyse! I have seen that as well. Not as immediately rewarding as a cartoon piano falling on one’s head, say, but path-changing all the same. 🙂

  4. October 17, 2014 at 10:40 am

    I enjoyed this just as much as the first time I read it. It’s an important piece. I really need to get better at being unaffected, especially by anticipated or imagined beliefs/opinions. Thanks for sharing. Again.

    • October 18, 2014 at 4:59 am

      I’ve gotten pretty good over the years at reading people and even the silences between words in conversation. And yet, even so, I still occasionally misjudge based on how I’m feeling a certain day or my own old biases. (There’s a great example in comments on my last post, actually!) It’s good for me to have those moments where I believe someone is being down on me, I say “she’ll me understand where you’re coming from” … and discover I was totally misreading. So glad for my mentor teaching me the power of these valuable words, though I still sometimes forget to say them and leap straight into defensiveness! Better with practice in all things. *hugs*

  5. cardamone5
    October 17, 2014 at 10:41 am

    I can’t believe people said this to you. It’s shocking. But, what’s wonderful is your response. You know their rudeness is about them, not you. They are unhappy and that’s why they feel the need to infect others. Good for you not only for not letting them, but also standing up to them on behalf of others.

    Fondly,
    Elizabeth

    • October 18, 2014 at 5:04 am

      Thank you! One thing that was really cool about revisiting this was getting to see how the landscape has changed for me. Since the exchange inspiring this post, I have only met this kind of needless stranger antagonism once or twice, instead–excitingly–encountering mostly thumbs-up and shouts of, “You go, girl!” Those, those I do take in, savoring for a moment even as my feet carry me away.

  6. October 17, 2014 at 10:49 am

    I can’t help wondering what kind of parenting the people who would say stuff like that had. Did they never learn the basics of common courtesy and empathy? I’d be horrified if my teen sons ever said anything like that. Here’s hoping I’ve done my job right and they never will. How horrible. I think it’s cool you spoke up and didn’t let it bother–or define–you.

    • October 18, 2014 at 5:06 am

      I wonder that, too. I would also be horrified and am so thankful for each of D’s overt expressions of empathy. I know we will have our own challenges as he gets older, but I don’t expect this kind to be among them …

  7. October 17, 2014 at 11:19 am

    I’m so glad you re-posted, because this is a great article and it should be drawing in a crown!

  8. October 17, 2014 at 4:03 pm

    Yes, thanks for re-posting, Deb. It’s a really important topic and we are so fear-based now that more people are getting away with meanness to others. If we become braver in stopping it in its tracks, the big-mouths will think twice the next time. I understand where this behavior comes from, but only a push-back will get them thinking about it.

    • October 18, 2014 at 5:17 am

      I was so quick to dismiss it that I don’t think I understood where it came from. Reading and reflecting on these comments, it now seems like it’s the living, breathing counterpart to cruel comments online. Empowered by their anonymity, they try gaining power through cruel jabs in situations where they’re unlikely to be held accountable. If that is the source of their power in life, I feel so sad for them and the people around them … but will still say something, since the turning point in this post!

  9. October 17, 2014 at 5:56 pm

    Truth is a wonderful and powerful thing. I am happy you reposted this one. I recently had an experience with a bully on an airplane, his belief in his authority as a man and my weakness as a woman was interesting. Ultimately he lost. I waited till others could hear me ask the question, ‘ would you talk to me this way if I had a penis?’

    “Well you don’t”, he replied.
    “Neither, do you clearly’, I said with my sweetest Texas smile and drawl.

    The plane around me erupted in laughter, the women in applause. He had been a jerk the entire flight.

    Bullies should always be taken down a few pegs when given the opportunity to do so.

    • October 18, 2014 at 5:20 am

      Oh, how this makes me laugh! I can envision it so clearly. And I agree with your conclusion. People keep doing what’s rewarded. If the reward is sometimes a nad-punch, that will offset the little surge of victory they feel after a “success” and eventually (potentially) change the behavior. Or so I can hope! 😉

  10. October 17, 2014 at 8:27 pm

    Maybe I’m oblivious (or I just never leave the house anymore) but it shocks me to hear about people being so outright rude. But then I probably said that the first time this was posted haha. Lots of people conceal and carry in these parts. Could be why people are more polite, haha.

    • October 18, 2014 at 5:21 am

      I had to share this particular comment with Anthony! He has actually encouraged me to be a little quieter about voicing my concerns in certain areas around here for a like reason.

      • October 18, 2014 at 7:04 am

        It is something to be concerned about! You never know if someone might have a gun. Or be carrying a less explode-y but still nasty weapon of some sort on their person or close at hand. I’ve known people who keep ball bats or ball peen hammers in their jeans when they go to a bar (why they go to that particular bar if it has that sort of a reputation wasn’t something I could get a decent answer to) I personally keep a large Mag-Lite in my car, because I drive alone at night a lot. It’s duel purpose, haha.

  11. October 17, 2014 at 9:51 pm

    Good on you! I can never understand what’s in it for the taunter. Does it really make you feel good to insult some random stranger? Does it really make you feel better to know you’ve made someone else’s day a little worse? And if it does, what does that say about you?

    • October 18, 2014 at 5:26 am

      Love your comment. I didn’t get it until reading and thinking on some of these comments! Understanding really makes me so grateful that he kind of empowerment I feel in day to day life has to do not with barbs lobbed at other people but positive accomplishments … some days, really small ones, but things I can and do truly own. I don’t think folks who derive a sense of power this way are ever going to understand true happiness, too busy will they be trying to find ways to make themselves feel above the others around them. No matter how superficially.

  12. October 18, 2014 at 8:05 am

    This is definitely one of those lessons I need to take to heart.

    • October 18, 2014 at 8:07 am

      It makes the heart so much more peaceable, not taking ownership of other people’s crud. How’ve you been doing? So good “seeing” you, Melisa! ♥

  13. October 18, 2014 at 9:46 am

    I have never understood why people want to be mean to someone – mean to people they know, and even to people they do not even know? The next time I hear an insult like that – either directed towards me or towards someone else, I think I will turn and ask the person that – “Why do you want to be so mean?”

  14. October 18, 2014 at 11:06 am

    I want to kick him in his nads!!

    Moderate Daddy and I are Christians so needless to say we are raising the kids on Christian morals and doing our best to show them the Lords love and beauty.

    The Bible say only God knows and truly looks at the heart… no man can know it.

    My desire and what I teach my kids is that outside appearance is not the sum of a person… a lot of times it’s the actions, the love or lack of love given to what is eternal… what is truly worthy of our time… people!!

    But even actions can lie… a bully might need love the most… a “kind” person might be acting out of self gain…

    again only God knows and all He calls.. asks of me to do and all of us to do is LOVE (Corinthians 13)!!

    But…

    sometimes I think He’s okay with a good ol’ nads kicking!!

  15. October 18, 2014 at 2:00 pm

    It is a really wonderful thing to develop clarity and presence of mind in the face of such bigotry. Words are sometimes a very powerful weapon, with a slow-burn capacity; and can recur to someone when they are in a place to understand them Lets hope your words hit home one day.

  16. October 19, 2014 at 9:56 am

    Hi my best ever friendly “monster in the closet”, 🙂 ^ ^
    You already know I truly love your writings, dear Deborah. Yes I do.
    I had never left any comment before though.
    But, this time, I really had to stop by and write this :
    Just anyone is able to kill by using few cruel words. The saddest thing is these persons have certainly been bullied too in their past. But they’ve washed it off their memory and they’re being mean (and worse) to others every single time they get the chance.
    So what they’re showing pretty clearly in their rude manners or talking to other beings is their own impossibility to free themselves from this particular past, an untold secret own world.
    A world made of loneliness, built around their anger about their own self.
    Hopefully, there are many many other people who don’t do this.
    But yes, you are soo right about that specific power freely given to everyone who’s chosen “anonymity” as a coward way to express their own poor very low minded thoughts publicly.
    All I see is a very scared-to-death adult who once used to be a happy innocent child, hidden behind words full of ugliness.
    And in the end, Deborah dear, you’ve found grace and empathy inside you for these lost children. Haven’t you?
    Well, I personally have or had many times, and I’m pretty sure you had too, otherwise you wouldn’t have written “Your belief is irrelevant”. N’est ce pas? (= right? in french)
    I definitely think you are not only a very intelligent brilliant writer, but a lovely woman too.
    Much Love,
    Amitié
    Béa

    p.s. forgive me for my not so good english…I know, I know I really need to get back to school. (smiles)

  17. October 21, 2014 at 4:48 pm

    Such a good response!

  18. November 6, 2014 at 7:52 pm

    This is an awesome post, and it comes on the heels of my family’s decision to stand up to some cyber-bullies on a Facebook page we administer for a community event. After reading your blog, I’m certain we did the right thing. Thanks!

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