humiliation. Humiliation describes a strong feeling of embarrassment or mortification — like that time in sixth grade when your mother wiped your face and called you “honey bunny” in front of all your friends. Humiliation comes from the Latin word humiliare, which means “to humble.”
Am I the only one that finds it interesting how humble could evolve into the exact opposite?
A person in possession of humility recognizes their place in the world, does not overstate their existence, displays a modicum of reverence for those around and is prone to acceptance. This person, ideally, would be a total failure if he lowered himself to the point in which he deliberately embarrassed another person. It’s an almost perfect metaphor for the decline of modern society. The only flaw is that most people don’t display humility. A significant amount of people, much to my chagrin, are actually capable of great cruelty.
I was inspired to delve into this moral distinction by a post from a dear friend who is grappling with some powerful emotions, brought on by a handicapped parking spot and the chaos that ensued. https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/73254859/posts/1731630483
She was brought into a discussion in which a person with a Handicap placard on their car was confronted by an angry note on her car. You don’t look sick, save a space for someone who needs it (or something to that effect). This brought out so many questions for her. It is a big issue for her, she has an invisible illness, a handicap placard, and a high likelihood that it will happen to her someday.
Why can’t people mind their business?
Is it ok for a 9 yr old to verbally defend the parent?
Do people even understand invisible illness?
Why do people feel compelled to lash out?
Is it acceptable to respond emotionally, with possible profanity?
And perhaps most important…how would a genuinely good person handle it?
What impressed me about this post is that, of all of the important issues brought to the surface, her biggest concern was that she, if in this situation would react the right way. What is the moral high ground here? I have some thoughts on this.
If someone were to leave such a note on my car, I would be frustrated at the anonymous, passive-aggressive nature of it. If someone were to call me out personally as I stepped out of my car, in my nice reserved parking space, having the balls to walk “normally” I may have a different reaction. I would like to think that I would gracefully respond along the lines of “I don’t have to have an IV bag to have this spot”. But I may also respond with a firm “mind your own fucking business”. One is more acceptable than the other but the second one is not wrong, it’s just not productive.
The bottom line is that it’s not your journey, it’s the attackers. You can’t think for them, you can’t make them think at all and you can’t control their own lack of control when they speak. I go back to my original question, how does humility evolve into humiliation? It doesn’t. Humble people, who make up a small but significant portion of the population wouldn’t attack an easy target. Most people are not prone to humility, but instead are quick to speak while slow to think; ignorant, as in uneducated, about invisible illness; and too free to offer up unwanted opinions. Their ability to humiliate another is truly alarming. This is only a microcosm of society in general.
I told my friend much of what I have said here. That there are no easy answers, that in the end, it is up to other people to learn how to interact with the rest of the world. We can’t change the behavior but we can control how we react to them. I don’t think I helped her much. After all, she knew the answer. Telling someone off isn’t going to do anything to stop the problem. Not saying anything is like swallowing a bitter pill. What do you do?
My father always said of fighting “If you punch an asshole in the mouth, you may feel better but he’s still an asshole”. That is an unfortunate reality. To walk away is harder, especially when you have been victimized and marginalized. A strong person can do it but could not be faulted for lashing out. It doesn’t feel good no matter how you handle it.
So we go back to the other person’s journey. What makes people offer up unsolicited, hurtful opinions? A lack of empathy? A lack of knowledge? Poor upbringing?
D) All of the above.
People are mean, looking for a way to make themselves feel better about themselves, finding their voice by silencing another’s. The only way to change this is to be better. My friend started and ended with that. As a good person, she sought the means to deal with a bad person. Therein lies the answer. Slowly, one person at a time, answer bad with the good, negative with positive and eventually you will enact real change.
If we heed “be kind, for everyone you find is fighting a hard journey”, and follow Gandhi’s “Be the change you want to see in the world” we will see change. I don’t know how many generations it will take but it will happen.