I read recently an opinion of the cultural shift of the word “abuse” in the past few decades. The point made was that this word is used today to reference all sorts of minor offenses and disagreements of opinion. In years past, if two people disagreed, then it would be considered just that and no accusations that one side or the other was abusive with their language or fueled by primal hatred.
I find this an interesting point. While I believe verbal abuse does exist, it does seem we accuse others of it in places where it doesn’t truly exist. Somehow this subtle phrase has created a sense of mistreatment in all of us. I know I had mumbled under my breath at times of disagreement that I shouldn’t have to put up with this sort of insolence. After all, imagine the audacity of this other person not to agree with me completely and/or concede that my points are supreme!
This attitude of entitlement that has infested our culture, myself included, has ripened our feelings of being persecuted whenever we do not get our way or should others not concur with our perspective. I have noticed it growing in me over the years, and this is probably why Kanye West wants to teach us all a lesson about respecting him more by boycotting the Grammys. Social media has enhanced this feeling of privilege too, probably because we don’t debate face to face. It’s always easier to be rude or to misjudge disagreement as rudeness with discussing issues with a faceless person.
This brings me to the epiphany I had the other day: Most of the issues I have with others are not truly problems they have; they are issues I have with myself.
My fear about not holding to this revelation is that the arrogance of prerogative might creep into my most intimate of relationships. I worry that my children will not learn to connect with other people because “abuses” occur. After all, in any affiliation there will be disagreements and there will be behavior not appreciated. But that doesn’t constitute abuse.
However, if we decide we shouldn’t have to be subjected to such cruelty then we throw away these friends and lovers for the hope of others treating us better. If the problem is within me or within my children, rather than being a valid reason for ending a relationship, then this is an action without hope at all – for no one will ever measure up to our unrealistic self-entitled expectation.
Of course there are times when real abuse happens and it is vital to end the dangerous contact. However, so many times we justify our actions for tossing out a good thing under the umbrella of abuse, when it is really far from violence, neglect or disrespect. So many offenses are mistakes, human err.
I don’t believe our friends, our peers, our co-workers or our family members wake up thinking ways to harm us. We are human and mistakes are inevitable. We can be more tolerant and understanding when others hurt us. We can remember that hurt people hurt people. We can opt not to attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.
It is my prayer that I will remember this daily, but especially in times of stress. I can let go of the hate and anger – for those things are not properties of those who offend me as much as they belong to me.