Sensitivity. It’s a… well, sensitive topic sometimes.
What do I say? What if I say the wrong thing? What if I say something offensive and I’m left backpedalling, trying to recover a conversation that has now been drowned in regret and awkwardness. That’s it, I’m just not going to say anything so I don’t offend someone. Or I will just group everyone all into one general group and ignore their differences with a blanket statement so that everyone is happy!
Or there’s the opposite.
I don’t care at all what people think about what I say. We have freedom of speech, I can say whatever the heck I want. I don’t care if you think it is offensive. I’m not being mean, I’m just blunt. It’s just who I am. Those ‘snowflakes’ need to get over themselves and grow up.
Here we see the two extremes: one who is too afraid to say anything for fear of offense, and one who says that they are just ‘preserving freedom of speech’ but in reality are doing their very best to get attention and ruffle some feathers.
Let’s start off with realizing that there is a difference between being honest and speaking your mind when it is appropriate and just being a jerk.
We have freedom of speech in the United States of America. I am proud of that, I am happy that we legally are protected to where we are allowed to speak our mind and publish as we please. I mean, come on, I’m typing this on my own personal laptop right now and publishing my opinion to the internet for anyone to see.
But sometimes, you just need to shut your mouth.
Today I was sitting in lunch. For some background information here, I am in high school, and I have Dysautonomia combined with Chronic Migraines. This causes me to pass out sometimes, lately its been about 5-7 times a week. Yesterday I passed out twice, one of those times happened to be in the lunch room. Anyone else with orthostatic intolerance gets that usually, once you get horizontal, you can usually get back up and get going again eventually. I got up in a few minutes and moved on my way to class.
But meanwhile, someone else decided to make decisions for me. Someone who was uneducated about my situation, someone who has not experienced my health issues with me, and someone who ignored people who actually knew what to do and could’ve helped me better. She may have just been a well meaning adult. But she was also ignorant. And she didn’t listen to the people who knew what to do just because they were young.
(I’m not finished yet.)
Today she approached me again at lunch. My friend got some good news, so I was jumping and happy. I was celebrating with her. And this person looks me in the eyes and says with this syrupy sweet smile just dripping with sarcasm…
“Oh, so I see you’re conscious today?”
Stop. Please, just stop.
When you don’t fully understand my situation, and you have already made my situation worse, please, please refrain from making my illness a joke. I deal with it. I live with it. Every once in a while I or one of my close friends and family will make a light-hearted joke about it. But until you understand my situation, until you can better understand what is okay and what isn’t, until you have walked in my shoes, please stop making me feel like I’m somehow ‘making it up’ or ‘exaggerating’ my life.
I had enough of that from a doctor who ignored my symptoms and told me I was crazy.
Do I think that you should never say anything for fear of offending someone? No. I don’t. But the reason why it doesn’t affect me when I make a joke or when one of my close friends makes a light hearted joke is simple – they understand that I understand their intent.
This woman’s voice was full of sarcasm. She had turned a real life struggle of mine into a joke meant to be laughed at. Her mock surprise at my consciousness only seemed to further my disappoint in my self that I have trouble with the basic function of staying conscious.
There is a line, and it’s hard to find. And sometimes, you say something, and you just have to realize that you are wrong. You just have to admit it. And you have to be okay with admitting it.
But if we continue to approach life and others by stepping around eggshells, or like a bull in a china shop, the scale is unbalanced. There is a time to speak your mind, there is an appropriate situation. But there is also a time to shut your mouth, and step away. If you need to ask clarifying questions, do so. If you need to do a little research to understand someone else’s point of view, do it. If you need to offend someone to defend a worthy cause in the appropriate situation, do it.
But be willing to admit when you are wrong. Be willing to take a step back to try to view the situation from their point of view. Let’s be sensitive to others, without compromising our own morals.