No matter who you are, or what you are doing in life, you will have negative detractors. These days these people are known as ‘haters’. Especially with the advent of the internet it would seem people are more than happy to offer their negative feedback on you and your life. How do you combat such people? I have found the simplest way is to live the best version of yourself. When you do so you make them look as if they are the foolish ones. When someone says something about you and you are doing the best you can, that says something more negative about them than it does about you.
Let me share a personal story that better explains what I am talking about. A year or so ago, there was a party Margie and I were invited to. When we arrived we were told there would be snacks and people playing games. Margie and I love board games so we figured this would be right up our alley. We could not have been further from the truth. In this particular game, you could write your own answers. As the created answers rolled off the pens of those in attendance, I found myself a mixture of shocked and appalled. From this group of seemingly well-mannered individuals, came answers filled with racism and extreme prejudice. Not at all what I had expected. In a very short time, the answered went from mindless, bigoted stupidity, to advocating violence and other horrific acts against people for their race, religion or orientation. I had had enough. I informed Margie I was leaving.
When I got home, I felt so coated in negative energy I had to jump in the shower. Why did this bother me so much? Simple, racism and bigotry are stupid. They are an arcane belief that shows both a lack of culture and a great deal of ignorance in the individual speaking it. In a world where most of us are a mix of nearly everything, it makes absolutely no sense. With the internet and other advanced forms of communication, it takes only the smallest amount of effort to see how similar we are and how small the world truly is. As we are pone to thinking a great deal in the shower I thought of the dangerous implications this gathering could cause. Even in a group of such close-minded individuals there are always a few that are even more morally bankrupt and impressionable than the rest. Where most of them may have found this a sick sort of humor, there are people who think these acts may actually be permissible and proceed to act on them. This is how we end up with the violent acts we recently seen against the Asian-Americans in Atlanta and the attacks on the LGBTQ community in Orlando several years ago. These individuals were undoubtedly exposed to the same sort of racist and violent discussions.
Knowing I had to do something, I used the one platform I had to express my concern and feelings by writing on the issue. There is no doubt that several people in attendance that evening wrote what I had written. Fast forward 12 months and that group was having another party. I was not invited this time. (I was certainly happy with that) At the party one young lady expressed her joy at my absence telling a mutual acquaintance, “It is sure good Neil is not here. He is really offended by this.” While it was her attempt at painting me as a person who was overly sensitive to racist remarks as if that were a bad thing, I received it as a compliment. By speaking up for what I had felt was right, I now, apparently, had a reputation for someone who did not stand for discrimination of any kind. This woman was saying, in essence, “Neil is offended by our humor demeaning and advocating hatred and violence towards others who are different than us.” I stand guilty as charged. I believe everyone deserves respect and compassion. When I see that is not the case I speak up about it. If people think of that as a negative character trait of mine, they are welcome to it.
In this case, by living by the principles I have in my life, I have not only shown the haters for who they truly are, but turned their attacks into compliments in my opinion. They may mock my sensitivity to their racist and bigoted humor, but I will thank them for it. Live the best version of yourself my friends. It is better to be hated for who you truly are than to live a life that does not live up the standards you have set for yourself.