By: Ariel Fixler
The dictionary defines hypercritical as:
excessively and unreasonably critical, especially of small faults.
I had an acute awareness regarding our widespread societal hypercritical tendencies. We are so quick to judge. Everything and everyone is pre-judged and post-judged. What do I mean by that statement? We are rooting for people to fail and kick them while they are down. It is as if we seek pleasure in it. We are always looking for ulterior motives and less than altruistic intentions. The people who are the most insecure are those who are quick to spread malicious gossip as if it was gospel. They feed off of the negative and their passion for attention overtakes them. They need the most attention and ego assuaging as well. They make their opinions vocal and their intent irreverent. They think, post, spread without consequence and more simply without truly thinking it through.
No matter what your standing is in life, you are being judged and feeling the wrath of being stared down rather brutally. We all have our snarky comments on standby ready to shoot, aim and fire. There are grandiose statements made all around us. We make blanketed statements and assessments. We tend to so broadly generalize. We tend to block out what is unique, true and rational. We mock those with differing drives and opinions. We critique everything and everyone. I have been both victim and a contributor and to be frank both positions are filled with hypocrisy and layered with the ludicrous. Thinking about being in both shoes is heavy and makes sick to my stomach.
We judge people by their talent, abilities and words. But can we do any better than them? Who are we to judge in any judicious and fair manner? We compare ourselves to others and see how we measure up. We size up everyone in every gender and station in life. We question why people deserve attention when we deserve said attention. No one is safe, not even the sick and defenseless.
I know the word bully is now a trendy word or a cause to take up, but what happens when it is no longer a cause? What happens when it becomes a case for caring and compassion? Bullying is more than a trend it is a reality. Bullying and taunting can be both conversely mindful and manic.
We rush to judgement. We prejudicially proclaim our personal judgements, declarations and opinions (most times before we have all the hard facts). So many people judge from afar, without any personal or tangible proof. Words get passed down and passed onward in a cycle of hurt. We should be without sitting with it and thinking it through before judging hastily. Unless you witness something or someone with your very own eyes, we have no right to silently or vocally judge. We have no right to sit behind a screen judging and being negative. Those kind of actions are the breeding ground for intolerance and ignorance. They are the reason people close themselves off, isolate in depression and in extreme cases self-harm. They are the reason people are not vocal about what afflicts them and overtakes them. They are afraid of the ignorance and judgement.
Who gave you the courtroom gavel to slam people with? We all are in self-protection mode. We often are rash with our emotions and take action without fully thinking it through. We are ready to reply and retort without letting it marinate and sitting with it in silence. We try to hurt someone else before they can be hurt us. We are always in self-protection mode to protect ourselves from what is true and tangible.We put up a wall in order not to let people in and also to not be let down.
If we really took the time to be rational with our emotions, actions and thoughts we probably wouldn’t conduct ourselves in the same manner. Also half of the rational, irrational actions and emotions are hitting the wrong target. You make them represent your hurt, fear and sadness from the past and bring them to the surface. Are you really going after them for current actions and assumptions? Or are you attacking them for what they represent to you in the past, present and future? That is why the phrase “jump to conclusions” exists. You are figuratively leaping and clinging onto something that may be false and a lie. When people say “sleep on it”, it isn’t a put off not to rationalize or console you. It is hitting the restart and refresh button so you can still live in the now….. but later on. When we don’t restart and think it over we are a machine that is in shut down mode, not letting anything or anyone in. We are running on fumes and burning out our rational side. We won’t let any other opinions or knowledge in. We become close minded and closed off. We assure ourselves to “go with our gut” and act in the now instead of leaving it or living in “the later”.
The recipients become a bystander of their own life narrative. It’s like watching a sporting match from the sidelines. You can’t do anything but watch in silence. You are silenced by the sullying. Whether you are healthy, sick or just living your life at an even keel, you can easily become a victim.
You have two choices when you are the victim of an emotional and verbal attack:
1. Spew the same hatred, judgments and hurt to the messenger or creator of such critical content. You may be creating a sick cycle of pot shots.
2. Stay silent, stay sane, be brave and do not stoop to the same desperate and attention seeking levels as the attacker. Listen muting yourself is never easy and is certainly not the passive way out. It is the mature way to invite positivity in. Silence is golden and creates the light in your life that has been penetrated by the darkness of words and actions. Is it really that painful to wait and see rather to act fast and possibly irrationally? Remember writing is therapy, but you don’t always have to press the send key. You can draft away the darkness, find a better outlet for your pain (and gut responses) than going on the same attack.
No one wins in the war of words it creates the waning of your wisdom. It needs to stop and it needs to stop right now. Saying that it is all in good fun and not mean-spirited is far from the truth. You know what is even worse? Hearing the second-hand account of such mean-spirited banter and accusations. It takes balls to pass judgement, make accusations and point the finger at people. You know what takes bigger balls? Saying it to the persons face. You are chicken shitting your way out of the hole you are digging, by telling someone else and playing a broken game of telephone. By the time the message reaches you it is muffled and vitriol. When the words finally reach the listening ears of the target it hits with a resounding thud. That is not to say the person who finally tells you the storied tale isn’t brave, honest and helpful. It means it just takes more courage to not hide behind your words, actions and a screen. Often times the person who relays the message, bad news and gossip becomes the target of your reaction (which is usually anger and shock). That is not even close to fair to anyone.
Think about all the people you critique online (especially public figures).
Would you ever say those things to their face if you met them?
Could you do their job?
Have their talent?
Wear their fashion?
Live their life any better?
Probably not right?
How would you cope or react?
So why would you do that with people from “normal” walks of life?
Who gave you that role?
Who gave you that power?
No one is a justified recipient of your barks and barbs. Put forward your passion, responses, opinions and turn them into compassion, understanding, forgiveness and love. Take the time to figure out the why instead of focusing on the who, what and when. Who knows you may be put in the position where you need that same support in your life. You truly never know, karma isn’t a bitch as the saying goes. Karma is kinetic energy and a force that catapults a conversation of candor (if utilized in the right way). It is something that can be created and harnessed as a tool not a weapon.
One of my biggest regrets and truly stomach turning moments in my life was being too judgemental of others, knocking people down and building them up in one fallow swoop. I could be passive, aggressive and passive aggressive. I understood the effect, more than I would like to admit (because I have also been on the receiving end of it).
Here is an example, one of my breaking points is when my friend Barrie told me something so horrible after a lunch with an old childhood friend over the holidays in 2014. Saying something so out of line and realizing this person is a newly minted physician. My dear friend Barrie, who has been nothing but supportive and loving to me for the last 10 years and throughout my childhood, felt just as ugly reciting it to me.. It was a turning point for both of us, since this same person also had harsh words for our most innocuous friend Amy. Crap-talking her was like shit talking Mother Theresa, you just don’t do it. Since I was the person who constantly let this person back into my life (after she always went MIA). I accepted every excuse, I even defended her to others and actively set myself up for disappointment. So I take partial blame for allowing in the toxicity.
The person who had such harsh critique and assumptions, is a doctor who treats people on a regular basis. So being ugly with her words and actions this is their bedside manner? Now to give you perspective this is person is someone who would always pass judgement from afar and was bullied when she was younger. So she took out of a lot of aggression on others. We often tried to justify and dignify her actions and love for one upping everyone and general lack of sportsmanship. Even my friend Barrie was the target of her anger and hostile jabs (up until only recently) when she tried to wipe the slate clean. This person was someone who gets pleasure in the pain of others, especially those she felt had wronged her. For all of her life she hated the classmates who left her out or any childish nonsense on that spectrum of “emo” emotional vulnerability scale. She had left this school years ago as a pre-teen, yet was all full of teen angst and palpable aggression in her 30s. As teens and adults, we always made excuses for her attitude, rash and cruel behavior and her ability to judge others at the drop of a hat. Our parents (even when we were teenagers) never quite understood her proclivity for “mean” and calculated cruelty.
You know it’s never a good sign when your parents tell you your friend is not a good influence on you and not someone they like to have over or be around. Her mother was hard to be around which we were told made her a product of that cruelty? I don’t know if I buy that but that, but it is what our parents told us as kids to rationalize their behavior. My friends in my community I grew up in were always wary of her gossipy tendencies at our community and temple gatherings. They were right to lead with such a moral and protective compass. She was quick to judge everyone in her path, the same went for the friends of hers I was friendly with. They reached out when they needed something, a set up, contacts, gossip, help with a gig or social favors. They were all hyper competitive with one another it seemed like a weird dynamic. They cast judgements on everyone and had opinions that were none to kind about any person who they deemed a threat. I tried to take what I heard with a grain of salt knowing who said it. I also didn’t want iodine poisoning with all that salty intake (if you catch my not so ironic drift). We relayed everything to my mom and friends from home and they were taken aback, but ironically, no one was really that surprised words so hateful and pointed came out of her mouth. So what does that say in the end?
A completely different scenario was a fellow scribe who had the balls to make me their anger target, but the cowardness not to confront me. As opposed to being mature and to talk it out, they used social media to make veiled barbs and jabs. You know the kind where it is vague enough not to know who the person was referencing, but clear enough to understand the message behind it. Where people comment “Are you ok”? They post vague quotes, famous quotes and statuses to garner attention and have people question what’s going in their life. They just want people to confirm their need to bring everything to the surface in the vaguest of manners. The people who air their hurt and grievances in an attention catching manner. The same way others air kindness, positivity, gratitude and love in an inviting way. It turns the attention tables to create a victim scenario when they are anything but the victim. They may not even remember the true definition of that word since they interpreted so many times in their own favor. The way people use the word “literally”nowadays as opposed to the word “figuratively”. They bitch about the mundane in life in a “why me” type whiney voice. Their quotes and statuses are also soaked in vagueness. They were hiding behind their words and their built-in interpretation of veracity and nobility.
The sick respect honesty more than any thing, veracity and candor over vagueness. Someone who is realistic of our condition and does not walk on eggshells around us. Someone who isn’t hiding behind vague words and vents in a private manner. Someone is open and is there to listen and not judge. Someone who isn’t in denial and emotionally detached from our reality. If you are angry please tell us, we certainly will tell you. Rather recently I found out through a second-hand telling and recounting of a muffled story something someone had said about me. It was a past barb and commentary that was brought to the surface in the present. By the time the broken game of telephone reached by rotary ears I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. It’s like every person who passed along the message added content to make it a better story. It reminded me of when people edit scripts and the initial content gets so edited in a round of edits that are passed around in the writer’s room, you forgot the original content and focus. How did a sci fi script morph into a romantic comedy?
So no one is immune to the wrath of being judged, you can be sick and weak and your body riddled with disease and people will still pick on you. One of my closest friends, Kerry McQuade, has half of her stomach removed. She is weak, her bones protrude and she struggles daily. She writes about her illness and what she has to go through to function. It’s a super intense and monitored regimen. But people still feel the need to mock her weight, throw eating disorder accusations her way and create stories about her. She writes about it candidly in her pieces of me blog http://piecesofme.co/. She has to vocally justify her appearance as if she is on trial for her health and well-being. However people still feel the need to bully her! Eat a burger they say. She can’t, can you just leave her ALONE. It breaks my heart. The worst things I have heard about the ill, including myself is we want attention and we want pity. Really? Everyone would trade anything for just a glimpse of your normalcy. We are not seeking attention, we just don’t always have positive things to say when you ask us the daunting question of how we are feeling. We could lie to normalize the banter, but if we don’t and are open with others we want sympathy and attention? Check yourself before you wreck yourself people.
I singled out these most recent scenarios because they are freshest in my mind. I could make a comprehensive list of terrible judgements passed upon me and people I know who are ill. Even worse, I kept silent because I didn’t want to go off on them and have someone take my words and forward or screen shot them as if it was a funny game of pain. But this is neither the place for that, nor do I want to give those people any more time or attention than they were already seeking. I chose to rise to the occasion of the rational not the rigid. People who think they are so smart and discerning are the least self-aware, self-sufficient and least confident. They are also the most insecure. Their words do not express boldness and candor, contrary to popular belief. I also don’t like getting involved in shifting blame or switching up the victim card (making them the newly victimized). The blame game is just that, it is an endless game of cat and mouse. Trust me the only outcome is getting trapped by baiting one another into getting trapped by words and actions and ending up confined and imprisoned in a mouse trap.
Ask yourself before you pose these judgemental questions with the preface OMG…..
Did you hear?
Did you see?
Instead of asking those questions ask WHY DO YOU CARE?
No one is immune from being a victim. Judgement and being vocal about it in whatever forum, is just a new form of modern-day bullying. We all do a tit for tat, but who really stacks up on top? The answer is NO ONE. It takes a lot of energy and nastiness to fight back, so many do not. Did I go after people who had gone after me most recently and in the past? NO. The old me would have and would have been cunning and played into kicking them down a peg. Everything piles on, until you are fully submerged in the sullying of your name and reputation. I see and hear it every day.
The simple question of “what do you think” turns into a chance to create a shame cycle and a spiraling that is out of control. Sometimes I wish I had been more vocal and stood up for myself, for every comment or discernment I heard. I thought about it, asked my friends and medical team and fellow CancerCare support group members. I truly wrestled with it and instead I used my Gmail inbox to write personal notes and use it as an outlet to express the injustice. I never sent them, but just writing the words helped me and was an outlet for my thoughts. Responding was giving in. Retorting rapidly was playing a game that no matter what the outcome was a lose/lose situation right? It was giving credence to those who displayed intolerance and hatred.
All I can do now is tell people for every assumption, accusation and discrimination you exert it takes up energy, valuable energy, good energy that is being eaten up by hatred and discerning capability for cowardness. The smack talking you are doing, makes you no better than a schoolyard bully who makes school a daily struggle and battlefield. Wouldn’t it to be better to be inviting with your words as opposed to being alienating and antagonistic? Ever heard of the phrase killing them with kindness? That is not just a blanket statement or a fun play in grammatical alliteration. It speaks volumes. Why? People commit suicide, hurt themselves, hurt others and feel immeasurable pain just from words alone. No one is paying you to get up on your soapbox and preach, so stop doing it for free, it’s not benefitting anyone.
For every person you take down with your words and assumptions, think about what you would do if those insults were hurled your way. REALLY THINK. Our skin is only as thick as our skulls, with one tap, one hit, one thud the protective shell and coating is gone. We feel exposed, stripped away, great pain and lose our intellect in the process. Don’t peel away our layers like an onion and make us cry. Be thoughtful, be mindful and protect our hard shells with the delicacy of a treasured pet turtle.
You have the ability to be brave, be the BETTER PERSON, be honest, be caring and harness all the jealousy and that bitterness toward a greater good. You can help others, you can shield others from the pain, you can be their rock and redeem yourself. You want to play victim online so people can as if you are ok? You can do better, you can use your social outlets to bring people together, not to alienate others. There is a way out. I wish I would have done a better job and been a better person all around and throughout my life. I wish I wasn’t just insightful and mindful when I was felt so raw, vulnerable and reflective. Kindness shouldn’t be seasonal outerwear. Being aware of your actions, your words and intentions incites positive declarations which will bring comfort to those you didn’t even know they needed it.
So take the time in your day to think before you speak. Before you post a snarky status or social commentary that is biting and nasty. Think is it really needed? Does it make me feel good to be this critical? What am I making up for by posting this? Take that extra time to really think it through before you blast someone on an email or mass text riddled with snark. Incite a campaign for kindness, use your words to motivate and connect people (not to single them out). You can easily act in accordance of kindness and forgiveness. No one deserves the snark and snide remarks. Enjoy the people and pleasures in life, before composing, sending out or posting less than poignant prose.
Any time you are thinking about venturing into mean girl territory or bully tactics visit Lauren Paul’s Kind Campaign instead: