Anyone who’s been on a diet knows that you can resist foods of all kinds until the moment you decide to diet. Suddenly the cravings come out of nowhere, the urges arise and if you aren’t very careful and very disciplined, you are soon stuffing your mouth with all sorts of rubbish that never tempted you before.
I’ve found this strange phenomenon to be present in another area this week. That is the area of name calling.
This week is officially No Name-Calling Week. According to the event’s Facebook page the week is described in the following manner:
No Name-Calling Week is an annual week of educational activities aimed at ending name-calling of all kinds and providing schools with the tools and inspiration to launch an on-going dialogue about ways to eliminate bullying in their communities.
Have you ever attempted to go a week without calling names? It isn’t as easy as you might think.
Consider these things. We are an increasingly disrespectful society. I would say that this is limited to the U.S., however such is not the case. In fact, in just the last week, I’ve received two comments on my blogs from people in other countries or continents calling me names and not nice ones either. Of course, I spammed those comments in the spirit of the week I am celebrating. While I’m not opposed to having people air their opinions in their own way, name-calling will never get press here. Further, my own journeys around the blogosphere reveals a vast array of digital name-calling. Behind the screen, it seems, that people simply let loose with whatever derogatory term or insulting phrase they deem appropriate given the circumstance. These labels and insults go far beyond merely disagreeing with another’s perspective or flawed reasoning, they are hateful, mean-spirited, and, at best, incredibly disrespectful and unkind things to say. I have a friend who tells her children, “You might think it, but you can’t say it.” Personally, I think that’s a great start. Sometimes these derogatory terms are meant in jest, in play, or in a teasingly affectionate manner. But more often, there is no disguising the venom and fury and hate behind the words.
The reality is, bullying is one of the first and simplest means of reducing another human being to a state of fear and helplessness. Name-calling and other acts of bullying are intended to intimidate and humiliate. The first and easiest method of bullying (and a largely effective one employed by those who bully) is name-calling. The No Bully website lists name-calling first in its list of behaviors that identify bullying. Bullying and name-calling in particular used to be called “just kid stuff”, but the reality is that those who end up perpetrating violent crimes in the teen years are as likely to have been long time victims of bullying as they have been to be the bully. Those children identified as bullies, are more likely to have a prison record by the age of 24. It isn’t just silly kid stuff anymore. While it begins in childhood, it continues to occur everywhere in our adult world too.
So this week, I and several others I know, including 32 young people I meet with every day decided to celebrate No Name-Calling Week. We are becoming more aware of how often we have the tendency to let slip a name even in jest. We are finding that this task is much more difficult than we first imagined. In fact, one young man even commented after a day or so, “Yeah, right,” he stated in frustration, “Like we are ever going to completely eliminate name-calling!”
My answer? “No, at least, not right away. But if we all ban together and try we might do some serious damage to the disrespect we all encounter.” Thus ensued a brief conversation about how we feel when someone calls us names and the respectful consideration of simply treating others the way we’d like to be treated. One conversation and one week of increasing our awareness certainly isn’t the cure all and I realize this. But as a parent and as a human being, I am increasingly alarmed by how humanity is redefining decency, courtesy and respect. In an age where tolerance is valued, there is one thing we ought to be completely intolerant of and that is bullying in all its many forms, and this week, most specifically name-calling.