What happened to being able to take a joke, or if it wasn’t a joke, being able to let something said to you roll off your shoulders? Today we are being taught to take everything personally. What happened to playful kidding?
As kids, we used to “rank” each other out. The way that worked was someone said something over-critical to someone, and followed up quickly with “Only kidding,” and a smile or perhaps a smirk.
There was usually at least a grain of truth to the statement, but it was meant to either tease, or sometimes meant to get a message across good-naturedly.
We did it to family member too, and family members did it back. I wasn’t always a good sport about it, and my dad would say, “You can dish it out, but you can’t take it.” He was teaching me not to take something to heart, that was said in jest. My dad was also teaching me to accept criticism and learn to laugh at myself. It was an important lesson that I think as a society we are no longer teaching.
Too many are hurt by everything. Every word is looked at under a microscope, searching for any particle of negativity. As we become more and more sensitive about everything, we are becoming desensitized. If everything is an insult…nothing is truly an insult.
If we value freedom of speech, we must once again understand that saying what we want to say, means we must tolerate hearing what we do not want to hear.
Too many are trying to shut down conversation by feigning grievous damage caused by words directed at them. Getting back to teaching lessons that include old sayings like “You have to grow a thicker skin,” instead of always defaulting to “Don’t say that,” is the way forward.
Remembering that joking is a coping mechanism and should not be eliminated just because some jokes fall flat, or cause momentary hurt feelings, is important. Look at tyrannical regimes where people cannot voice their opinions. In those societies, people are often punished even for jokes that are improperly directed. Those in power recognize that shutting down discussions that they deem dangerous to their agenda requires the use of potent tools, like public shaming.
We are not there yet, but it seems we are headed in that direction. Too many self-appointed public monitors are being placed online and offline with a mission of protecting our sensitivities. Their pronouncements of what is discussed and how it is discussed will trickle down and effect public discourse. That is not how a free society is supposed to work.
The First Amendment in our constitution protects our natural born right to speak freely — no matter how insensitive it may sound to the listener. We all will benefit if we stop being over-sensitive and get back to being able to take a joke and allow words we don’t like to roll off our shoulders.
Diana Erbio is a freelance writer and author of “Coming to America: A Girl Struggles to Find her Way in a New World”, along with her Blog Series, “Statues: The People They Salute”.