On Thursday night, I shared a Facebook status from MND Australia, celebrating the fact they’ve had $500,000 donated in the past two weeks from the Ice Bucket Challenge.
A Facebook “friend” made a point that the money they’ve raised is taking away from other charities and we delved into a discussion about it. Well, I think we tried to delve into a discussion about it, but when I began questioning the person – and sticking to my guns and not backing down from something I believe to be true – they didn’t like it. Not one bit.
The discussion very quickly moved away from the challenge and fast became all about me being a very insensitive and mean person for being so offensive. I did, after all, call people who are negative ‘miserable sods’.
Which they are. Well, at least from where I’m standing.
The thing most people that know me understand about me is this: I will never enter a debate, or be so incredibly headstrong during one, if a single fibre of my being is unsure about my exact opinion or the facts. And, during debate, I’m always open to other opinions and points and arguments – otherwise, you’re really just talking to yourself, aren’t you?
But here’s what people that know me also understand about me: I won’t tolerate bullshit. And name-calling. And finger pointing. And cowardice.
The discussion went down hill quickly because the questions I asked failed to get answered. Because they couldn’t be answered. Because hypocrisy was rife. And I called it out.
So I got called a bully.
And instead of bowing out (I gave an opportunity to ‘agree to disagree’), the person kept at it. And when I told them, if they continued, I’d give them something to be really offended about, they kept at it. So I told them to go and find something more productive to do with their day, instead of hassling me.
So I got called a bitch.
To be clear: being called a bully and bitch doesn’t bother me. I know I am neither.
What bothers me is that someone – this man – made our entire conversation redundant because he chose to be offensive (something he was admonishing me for, funnily enough) and, instead of answering the question, or raising a single point at all, threw his hands in the air and yelled ‘bully’ and ‘bitch’.
We all know it doesn’t work like that.
If you choose to enter a debate, be bloody prepared to battle it out, like an adult, leaving insults aside, and if you can’t handle it, don’t step up to the podium.
Or, as the old saying goes, don’t dish it out if you can’t take it.
I’m assuming I was called a bully and a bitch because I dared to question him. Because I didn’t back down from my opinion. Because I didn’t give in. And because I wouldn’t just darn well come out and say that yes, I was offensive and yes, you are right and I shouldn’t call people who are being negative ‘haters’ or ‘miserable sods’.
The real issue is I called him out. Period. I dared to hit him with a little bit of honesty, without sugar-coating my words, and he didn’t like it.
That’s not really my problem.
I don’t expect everyone to always agree with me. Far from it. I’ve had my opinion swayed far more times than I’d like to admit because I sat back and listened to someone else’s view.
I believe healthy and lively discussion is the only way people, and countries, really progress.
But there’s a big, big problem in Australia at the moment; the second anyone shares an opinion (whether it be your version of right or wrong, or completely outrageous) they’re shut down and ridiculed. If they’re well known, the media turns their opinion into a circus, if they’re not well known, they’re defriended on Facebook and blacklisted.
All for having an opinion.
Let’s get one thing clear: healthy, lively debate, where both sides are prepared to listen, but also belt it out, is vital. It’s vital to life, and relationships, and growth, and hope.
But when adults allow themselves to be disgracefully over-sensitive, when they allow ignorance to rule their mouths, and shut down their ears, we are left with a really big problem.
We become boring and dull and downright sluggish.
And whilst I’m not suggesting that everybody starts throwing opinions around every five minutes, I am saying we need to shake off this culture of shush and start learning how to listen and engage without being so offended.
I have absolutely no problem with the person that called me a bully and a bitch. I’d sit opposite them at dinner tonight and chat away happily. But I doubt they could say the same applies for them.
When did people become so petty? When did we, as a culture, become so offended, by everything, that it blinded us from what really matters?
I always believe that out of a negative comes a positive. And yesterday, when I was scratching my head and wondering how little this person must really think of me, the positive started to appear.
My phone started ringing. I started getting text messages. And private messages. It was from friends saying: ‘Well done.’ ‘Good on you.’ ‘Need me to put my fist in anyone’s face for you?’ And they kept coming from people I haven’t seen in far too long: ‘I love it when you speak and write.’ ‘Go for the jugular!’ ‘I’ve just read through the comments on your profile and this bloke is a bit out of line, I just wanted to offer my support to you.’ And then they started coming from people I don’t even really know at all: ‘I totally agree with you!’ ‘You’re bloody goooooooooooood.’
And, that, right there, made me realise that out of all the good things in my life, and out of all the good things I have done, this was the very best of them: surrounding myself, and building for myself, a network of positive people. Passionate, intelligent, rational, spirited people.
They are the very antithesis of stagnant.
And the reason I’m writing all of this is because I want you to know that you should never shy away from your opinion. By doing so, you shy away from yourself.
I want you to know that you should always stand up for yourself and sticky by, and to, the things you believe in.
Most of all, I really want you to stop pussy-footing around. Around people. Around issues. Around ideas. Around yourself.
Be proud of who you are.
I sure as hell am.