Do You Recognize When You Shame Other People?

November 17, 2017

Do You Recognize When You Shame Other People?

“Shaming” seems to be trendy now: body-shaming, mom-shaming, etc., but the concept is nothing new…

The other day, I was caught in a conversation with someone—someone I know only in passing. I have never have spoken to them before. I don’t know even their name.

I recently had a baby, and when you have a newborn, you have a lot of conversations—with people you know only in passing, to whom you’ve never spoken before, whose names you don’t know.

This person offered their congratulations, and I answered the perfunctory line of questioning that you receive when you have a baby. But when the fact that I have three children—roughly ten years apart each—came up, the tone of the conversation took a turn.

“You’re Crazy”

He was surprised to learn of the gap in my children’s ages, and the conversation went from congratulatory to um…I’m not exactly sure how to describe it. His next words were that “I was crazy.”

Initially, that comment seemed innocuous. He said it in a joking manner. And I agree on some level. I have a kid in college, one in middle school, and one in diapers—yup that is crazy. But he kept going. He made that comment not once, not twice, but…actually, I don’t know how many times he said it because I stopped counting at four.

Shaming

I recognize he may have been pandering to the other people in the conversation in an attempt to elicit some laughs, but his joking almost felt malicious. It felt shameful.

He managed to move past repeating himself about how crazy I was only to say other equally rude things like, “Just when things were getting easy for you,” “I’ll say what no one else is saying to you…you’re crazy,” and “What you had no heat?” Really, guy????

As he went on (and on, and on), I smiled and laughed (politely), but inside I felt terrible. He wasn’t knocking an idea I ran by him, or something I’m considering doing. He was criticizing my life—the current life I am living.

My Choice is Mine

In the moment, I said nothing, and now days later I regret that choice. How many of you replay situations in your mind and rewrite your “script” or your “role” to what you wish you said or did?

I regret not speaking up. And I say “speaking up” as opposed to defending myself because there’s nothing to defend.

I wish I told him (maybe somewhere after the second or third “you’re crazy”) that it’s okay that my choice seems odd to him, but it’s just that—my choice. It may not be for him, but it is my life—it’s what and how I’m living…(so back off!). I don’t know what I really would have said, but something to that effect.

Courtesy Laughs

But I said none of that. I continued to offer courtesy laughs (so I wouldn’t offend him, of course), and I walked away from that conversation not feeling good. Days later, it is still with me. I feel like I didn’t stick up for my family and my eight-week-old baby girl. I feel like a mama bear who didn’t protect her cubs.

I’ve tried to remind myself that it doesn’t matter what some person—whose name I don’t know, to whom I’ve never spoken before—thinks of my choices, but I have not been able to shake it.

What I realize though, is he, I’m guessing, hasn’t the faintest clue of the impact his words have had on me. I’m 100% certain he hasn’t thought twice about what he said. I’m almost as positive that he didn’t mean any harm by it.

Am I That Guy?

Which has made me think. How many times have I been that guy?

How many times have I made someone feel like crap because their choices were different than mine? How many times have I—in a failed attempt at humor—shamed someone? How many conversations have I walked away from where the other party wished they said something to shut me up? How many people harbor negative feelings about me because of how I made them feel?

Yes, I’ve Been That Guy

While I hope the answers to those questions are none, I know that is not the case. I have shamed other people’s choices—not intentionally—but nevertheless, I have done it. I’m a big believer that our intentions must take a backseat to the results of our words and actions.

It doesn’t matter what we meant to say or do if the person on the receiving end is hurt.

I know in my process of paying off debt—when I did an abrupt 180% in my habits—my words and attitude probably shamed friends and family who maintained the exact habits I just abandoned. Classic: I don’t do that anymore so now I will put down your choices.

Are You Aware When You Shame Others?

Finances are an easy area to shame others. We want validation of our choices by seeing them reflected in what other people do.

But we are all on our own financial journey, and because personal finance is personal, everyone’s path is unique. I cringe at the thought that I have been responsible for making people I love and care for feel bad about their choices.

So I guess I should thank “you’re crazy” guy for opening my eyes. Maybe “thanking” is taking it too far, but I am grateful for the “awakening”.

Words Hurt

Our conversation was a reminder that a comment, laugh, look, or sarcastic joke can be completely innocent in my eyes, but can still cause damage, resentment, and pain to others—none of which I wish to be responsible for. It was a reminder to ensure that the message I send and the message that is received from me convey nothing but respect and positivity—something I need to be more intentional about.

It was a reminder that other people’s choices won’t line up with mine and that is okay. I can always shame my kids because their choices should reflect mine and if they don’t, they deserve to be shamed. Okay, just kidding. (Please don’t mom-shame me.)

In all seriousness though, let us all be aware that words matter. Words hurt. Let’s make sure that ours don’t.

Related Reading:
•   Why You Shouldn’t Wait Until Tomorrow to Be Happy
•   The Profound Joy in Simplicity and Having Less
•   Why Gratitude is Good For Your Finances

Have you ever been the victim of shaming? How did you deal with it? Have you ever been the perpetrator? What have you learned from your experience?

Do your words and actions shame others? We should all be more intentional about making sure we don't shame others when their choices don't line up with ours.