Perception of Intention

Language is key in verbal communication. It is what connects us through vocal and written expression. How we say what we say and when we say it always matters, but perception is the main ingredient.

My frame-of-reference and everyone else’s is completely unique. Like a fingerprint, the meaning of what others say lies solely within. Our language here in the west is changing, some for the good some for the bad.

I love debating and contemplating this specific issue because of the political and social whirlwind that is modern times. Pronoun preferences and a wish to outlaw certain words is based on good intentions and I am all for that. If I meet a Trans woman, I’ll call her, her. It does no harm to me to call a person who lives as a woman, a woman, or a man living as a man, a man.  I choose not to use derogatory language and have found a number of insulting words that I didn’t even know existed referenced by others. It’s insane to me to find a long list of words that are used to “harm” others. I don’t like it. Nor do I wish to perpetuate it.  But that is my background. I was raised poor and lived in a diverse area where we had to stick together.

I also have a terrible sense of humor and don’t mind white jokes, jokes about women, or jokes against Wiccans and Pagans (all of which I am) because I was raised in a diverse enough group that I’ve had many a black man make fun of my heritage. I’ve had plenty of Asians joke about my religion, and so on.

If getting offended educated people, we would be the most socially advanced people ever. But in my experiences, I’ve found that letting go of preconceived notions, letting down my walls and my defenses, and learning to laugh at myself has been more helpful in gaining respect from others who are nothing like me.

There is something about sharing a laugh that calms people. It bonds us. It reminds us that no matter how confused we are about people we know nothing about, they can enjoy the same things that we do. It’s also helped me bridge gaps and teach others about cultures they just don’t understand.

People are more willing to listen if they’re having fun. They’re more apt to grow and change when they chose it. You can’t force anyone to reevaluate their thinking. Social media posts and public shaming only make it worse.

Some of this stems from a lesson that went too far back in the 90s. When I was a kid we were taught that words can be “weapons.” Can be. Not are. Not that they should be outlawed or that anyone should go to jail for exercising their freedom of speech, but that when you choose to use hurtful language you are allowing yourself to become the bully and screw up someone else’s day. In essence: You’re the asshole.

Anyone can be a jerk. It is a born right. There are no thought police in this country… not yet, at least. And despite my frustration at people who refuse to treat others with grace and respect, no matter what I say or do, if I lower myself to their level and bully them, I am just as bad.

There is a difference between standing up for someone and attacking someone. That line grows thinner every day because we have raised two new generations to believe that if anyone says anything they do not “like” anything that may “upset” them, you are attacking them because words are weapons.

Apparently they’ve never heard of Eleanor Roosevelt, or been in a situation where they’ve had to rely on themselves to stay strong. Yes, words can figuratively harm someone. They can leave a lasting impression. But they do not literally (as in, actually, for real, in real life) cut you open and make you bleed.

I was bullied in grade school. I was a fat little kid with goofy hair that didn’t know if it wanted to curl or not. My nose curved up slightly so I was called a pig. I was poor and wore hand me downs from my older cousins (all boys) or sometimes clothes from goodwill. I know what it’s like to come home from school every day and hate myself, to cry again and again. The only way to overcome that kind of despair is to find something you love to do and put your heart into it. Music and writing always saved me, and when I began to excel, nothing anyone said mattered. When I gained confidence and walked taller, people stopped teasing me because it’s not about how talented you are or how good you look; how you act and how you react to others is what matters most.

Getting upset only eggs a bully on. I thought this was common knowledge. It is easier said than put into practice, but it works and I am no stronger than anyone else.  On top of being bullied, I know I was probably seen as a bully to a few kids because sometimes I would get so down that I was mean to some of the kids who looked up to me. That was wrong. I get that now. I didn’t even realize I did it at the time.

That’s where perspective comes in. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in ourselves or our campaigns that we aren’t in control of our own actions. We take things too far. Everyone does it and anyone who says different needs to stop bullshitting themselves.

Words are only figurative weapons, because once you learn to let them roll off of you, they don’t hurt. Lately in the rare instance that I’m trolled by someone, it cracks me up. I have to fight the urge to joke around and play along because they’re absurd.

I have also been physically abused and experienced sexual assault. Having to deal with that makes name-calling seem like nothing in retrospect, but that is my experience. I have to recognize that some people have not struggled like I have, whereas others have struggled far greater.

No matter what I’ve been through I am conscience of the fact that I am lucky to live in a country where I can walk down the street without bombs going off every day. I can speak my mind without fear of being detained. I don’t have to have a man escort me everywhere I go and I always have a choice as to where I want my education and career to go.

There was no college fund for me. No family business to hand me a job. I applied for grants and scholarships and have been working since I was 15 years old. I had my own apartment and worked full-time through my senior year of high school. These details are important because people judge me every day based on my skin color, my sex, my gender, my religion; hell, my freaking hair color and clothing preference.

But when others falsely assume they know me based on my outward appearance I just think of when I used to shave my head. I got called “sir” all the time. To correct them, I didn’t call-them-out or go on an angry rant about human rights. It was a common mistake to make since most women don’t have shaved heads.

I merely turned around, stuck my boobs out, and spoke in the most feminine high pitched voice I could. Many people stopped and apologized, some ignored it. Either way I knew who I was and no one and nothing could or will change that.

The philosophy of “Know thyself” has never been more important. When you know yourself, you are more apt to be understanding of others. Most people are not sitting in a corner plotting out ways to offend or harm others. We’re all just trying to live as best we know how.  Being strong isn’t always about being loud. It’s about knowing when to raise your voice, and when to quietly fight by other means. I’m sure these words are considered a “weapon” to at least a few people out there, but intent is what matters most and most of us have good intentions. I know I always do.