“Soul control is learning to idle our brains before we engage our mouths,
thereby saving ourselves a boatload of heartache, wounded relationships, and regret.”
LET. IT. GO. by Karen Ehman
I remember the first time I teased someone to the point of tears.
We were in 6th grade, and I was oblivious.
Not until my little friend had locked herself crying in the girls’ bathroom did I realize something was wrong.
So I reassured her, “It’s okay! I was just teasing.”
But that didn’t un-do the damage I’d done.
“Fun” vs. Bullying
Yesterday, I posed this question on Facebook…
What’s the difference between harmless teasing / just playing around & actual bullying / harassment?
…and got some great responses:
- “Many times it’s the response of the other person. My brother often thought he was just teasing me; but it was hurtful and demeaning. I don’t like any teasing/playing around to be honest. It’s just not in the spirit of Jesus or the golden rule.”
- “ Intentions. Harmless teasing is done in friendship and love. It’s not intended to wound or hurt. When it does wound or hurt, it’s no longer harmless teasing.”
- “When the person being “teased” isn’t laughing.”
- “The relationship between the two people. Is it easy-going? friendship? professional? stranger?”
- “It all depends on how the person being teased perceives the ‘teasing.’ If they are offended, even if that wasn’t the intent, then it’s probably crossing the line.”
- “Hard to know when the line has been crossed if the teased doesn’t admit the hurt. Just kidding or…not…ha ha ha! Problem with writing is you can’t see expressions and intonation.”
- “I think the difference for the one doing the teasing is whether or not their intent is malicious. But ‘all in good fun’ isn’t always fun for the one being teased…and doesn’t take much to cross into bullying.”
- “I always told my kids, when they said, ‘But I was just teasing!’ that if the other person doesn’t laugh, it’s not funny. There’s a lot more to it than that, I know. But it was a starting place…”
- “Proverbs 26:17-19: Like a maniac shooting flaming arrows of death is one who deceives their neighbor and says, ‘I was only joking!’”
- “Empathy, I think.”
Why I Thrill When You Take a Spill
Why are we so Johnny-on-the-spot to react when someone else fails and we’re there to witness it?
The simplest reason feels so innocent:
I’m relieved that it wasn’t me. I didn’t trip. I wasn’t wrong. I didn’t slaughter a word we’ve all known since 4th grade.
So my laughter isn’t actually targeted toward anyone else. It’s just an expression of “whew!”
The deeper reason is far more dangerous:
I can walk across a room without tripping. I can give the correct answer. I can pronounce that word.
My laughter still isn’t targeted at anyone. It’s an affirmation of “Yes! I am capable. I am powerful!”
But when I focus on my relief and my power, I forget other people.
I’m so busy enjoying how good it feels to be “better” than the mistake-maker, I neglect a vital skill that makes me human:
When I teased my little friend to tears in 6th grade, I knew the intention of my “fun” was harmless.
But I could not control her reception of my “fun.”
She received it as bullying.
I even assured her, “I didn’t mean to!”
But my late-in-the-game switch from power to empathy did not suddenly switch her feelings.
“I Didn’t Mean To!” vs. I Mean Not To
When I was little and said, “I didn’t mean to!” as an excuse, my father always replied, “But you didn’t mean not to.”
That’s dumb, I used to think. How am I supposed to “mean not to“?
But my 6th grade teased-her-to-tears incident was serious shock therapy. I realized that I must intentionally mean not to bully, mean not to harass, mean not to tease inappropriately.
If I don’t mean not to, I may well end up being mean (without ever…er…meaning to!)
- What’s an area of your life in which you feel convicted to mean not to so you don’t end up being mean (without meaning to)?
- Make it a habit to “mean not to” instead of “not mean to”. (Click to Tweet this.)