Compliments of ClaraDon via Flickr

Compliments of ClaraDon via Flickr

Last week Houston experienced a deluge – massive quantities of water overflowing river banks, the resulting cataclysm literally crumbling residents’ backyards. Some even drowned in the excess, or vanished in torrential flooding.

Targets of emotional abuse find themselves submerged in others’ mental offal. If they’re adults (in a setting of equals) they have the opportunity to self-defend. Those in hierarchically imbalanced situations – e.g., children bullied by parents, employees tormented by bosses, service providers harassed by clientele – have fewer options.

Bystanders are an integral component of continued abuse and its subsequent impact. Their silent presence is tantamount to someone yelling “fight” in a schoolyard while gawking crowds gather – as if they’ve just been afforded an unexpected form of entertainment.

Spillover effects of the maltreated can be felt through sadness by osmosis, reduced creativity, somatic complaints, absence from work, voluntary turnover, the validation of bullying as a rite of passage when supervisors do nothing (or are in fact the very problem), survival of the fittest in employment as a cultural norm, along with quiet, cowed children who mature like turtles without a protective shell.

We can do better. What if individuals on the perceiving end emerged from their comfort zones to support peers, compliment a child, behave as peacemaker when they witness a service provider publicly bashed? Small acts of proactivity spread throughout our week would change society. Recession of low esteem occurs when rains stop, and when the abused are able to transcend their circumstance.

Flood stricken residue evaporates through repeated acts of respect, kindness, and recurrent consideration. Open mouth syndrome and self-centeredness contribute to the opposite. Think before you speak, count to five, take a timeout to decompress, do whatever it takes to avoid inundating another with your thoughtlessness.

Electronic devices in which we’re mired simply multiply indignities that we experience – people in conversation peering at cell phones, not looking up or even bothering to thank those who assisted them. Small acts of unkindness build upon misery inflicted by more deliberate abuse.

Even off handed comments can be remembered for years, and for the young, incorporated as part of an eroded self-concept – reducing their confidence and depleting their esteem. Words have the power to build scaffolding (serving as construction crew) or raze foundations (behaving as a wrecking ball). In which activity is your mouth engaged?

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All viewpoints expressed by Jackie Gilbert are her own, and not of her employer.

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