I’m generally a pretty easygoing guy (at least I try to be), but once in a while, I do stumble across scenarios and topics that make me upset.
Recently in China, I attended a speech. The speech was emotional and well-spoken, and portrayed perfectly, the helplessness and despair the speaker had experienced as a child growing up being bullied in the States.
Bullying isn’t something I can directly relate to, never having been a bully or been a victim of bullying myself, but I’ve had friends who were victims who are still trying to recover from it. So when the speaker ended his speech with the takeaway that bullying is never justified, that was something I felt I could relate to and stand for.
Unfortunately, some people aren’t always who they appear to be.
We had a get together with the speaker and a few of our mutual friends a week or so later. We were eating and talking casually when a certain topic was brought up and one of our mutual friends began sharing a recent painful experience of his, a mistake that had happened due to a combination of his own negligence and not having heeded our previous advice. The mistake was a big one and he was throughly devastated that it had happened.
As we began brainstorming on what we could do to help, the speaker snorted his disapproval saying:
“I told you so. You should’ve listened.”
This is a phrase most of us have at some point in our lives heard of or used ourselves. It might sound innocent, but it’s actually not.
When you tell someone “I told you so”, other for your self-satisfaction, what does the person being told get out of it? Do they feel any better? Can they change what’s already happened? All you’re doing is amplifying the hurt, the guilt and the embarrassment; you’re rubbing salt in their wounds. What you’re doing is essentially bullying. They get nothing out of it except maybe a lasting impression that you’re probably a jerk.
We all make mistakes, some mistakes more serious than others. None of us want or wish for these mistakes to happen. They’re accidents. While we should take responsibilities for our own mistakes, we don’t need someone berating us for what we already know. The guilt we feel from the consequences of our own mistakes is often already enough to serve as a lesson, a reminder to not make the same mistake again.
When I heard the speaker say those three words, I was in shock. I didn’t know what to think.
This was someone who was bullied his entire childhood. This was someone who wrote about those experiences and actually gave speeches about it. This was someone who preached anti-bullying, yet here he was, being hypocritical. Did he not realize the meaning behind his words, the actions behind his attitude? Did he, after years and years of having experienced bullying first-hand, not realize the negative impact those simple four words could cause?
He apologized profusely after, but it wasn’t until after I had brought up the fact. I was still disappointed.
Sometimes when we’re caught in a situation where we’ve made a mistake or in the midst of experiencing something traumatizing or tragic, a helping hand or even kind words is usually the most appreciated. There’s never a reason to shine a spotlight on the pain and further the hurt.
Be kind, be thoughtful and remember that we all make mistakes. Even the best of us.
“Blowing out someone else’s candle doesn’t make yours shine any brighter.” — Anonymous