We Need to Stop Trying To Protect Everyone’s Feelings

I recently had a conversation about the current atmosphere of sensitivity, political correctness, and the pressure to please everyone. People seem to either be walking on eggshells or instigating for the sake of being controversial. Quite frankly, nothing tangible or sustainable is being achieved by these attitudes.

What’s the controversy all about?

Between the tear down of General Lee Grant’s statue and the renaming of the prestigious Laura Ingalls Wilder Award, we’re willfully erasing the history books. Isn’t it said that forgetting the past leads us to repeat the same mistakes? I do not condone slavery, slander, racism, sexism, homophobia, ethnic mockery, or any other form of inhumanity. But I also don’t understand how eliminating all evidence that these now-unacceptable behaviors can serve us moving forward. For anyone who has ever visited the Holocaust Museum, it is painfully and poignantly clear that wrongs were committed that we should never again repeat.

However, I’m under the impression that we are being overly sensitive on many issue. For example, Native Americans were not offended by the team names Indians and Braves nor the stereotyped mascots, and yet a group of Caucasian men decided to stand up and defend the group from the MLB. Then, a mom in Tennessee complained that the gynecological information in the nonfiction science book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, is too pornographic for her 10th grade son.

I do not doubt people of color were deeply offended by a public statue which depicted someone who fought against the rights of their ancestors. I don’t question that someone read The Little House on the Prairie and felt attacked by the phase, “… there were no people. Only Indians lived there.” And I don’t doubt that some of the ideas and imagery presented in popular books are unsettling to some.

While we all have the right to feel offended and express our emotional response, I wonder just where the line is drawn. When a handful of people are up in arms over The Great Gatsby, pop songs, and art installations, are we simply supposed to ban them all?

Our lives are built of symbols. Books, statues, and people offer us new perspectives in the world as is was in the past, the world as it is at present time, and the world as it could be in idyllic future. Every controversial relic contain wisdom, which each person has the power to distill and apply within their own reality.

Your aversion to that artwork may offer insights into your psyche, while offering someone else a good laugh. We’re focusing on the wrong things. We are not seeing the forest for the trees. And we are forgetting that we’re not alone in the forest called life.

How to we have these conversations?

Have you ever tried to logically reason with someone, only to have them emotionally shut down? Have you ever become passionate about a cause without fully understanding what is it was you were fighting for? Both of the above scenarios are highly common, and, in my humble opinion, a large reason that so little progress is made.

The triune brain theory suggests that the human brain consists of three layers–the reptilian brain, the limbic brain, and the neocortex–and that each individual person is guided primarily by one of these three areas.

The brain’s innermost reptilian structure is also the most primitive, controlling vital functions in support of basic survival. The limbic brain records memories of behaviors and emotions, and continually makes value judgement that strongly influence our behavior. The neocortex has infinite learning abilities and is responsible for human culture, language, imagination, and consciousness.

In conversation, we must pay attention to whether people respond with fear, emotion, or logic. The best tactic for progress in a discussion is to choose one point in another’s argument and say, “Yes, I agree with your thinking on this particular point.” Convey understanding, build rapport, discover even the smallest bit of common ground, and then slowly build upon the conversation from there.

Why do we need to stop protecting peoples’ feelings?

Each of us is part of at least one minority. Whether skin color, religious beliefs, career path, sexual preference, ethnicity, or propensity towards literature, we each have our own unique fingerprint. It is simply not feasible to create a world in which eight billion people are in full agreement with one another–a world in which no one is ever offended.

The Socratic method is a way of teaching that fosters critical thinking, in part by encouraging students to question their own unexamined beliefs, as well as the received wisdom of those around them. Such questioning sometimes leads to discomfort and anger, but it paves the path to true understanding. We need to stop coddling and allow people to experience the discomfort of big questions. This capacity for critical thinking allows us to solidify our personal identity, beliefs, and capacity for empathy.

There’s a saying that goes, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” It seems as though people trying to protect others’ feelings is leading to bland world, increasingly devoid of free thought and free speech. We must keep in mind that modern media is funded by page views; since offensive articles are the most clicked, those are the kinds of stories we are exposed to, again and again. The profit-minded media is unlikely to change their tactic, so we must instead change ours.

What’s the next step?

The real solution here is to stop trying to protect everyone’s feelings, and instead focus solely on our own. Respect and empowerment emerge when we treat our peers as adults, regardless of their privilege, political standing, or belief system. We each have the choice to not be offended. We have the ability to discern intent. We are capable of separating someone else’s actions, provocation, or ignorance from our own. These traits of evolved consciousness are what set us apart from other animals, and they deserve the same respect as our fellow humans.

17 thoughts on “We Need to Stop Trying To Protect Everyone’s Feelings

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  1. Thank you for writing this. You really beautifully and simply capture the issue and boil it down to its universal roots.

    This is a topic I have been wrestling with how to approach myself. It is something that I think a lot about. because I belong to one of those more readily available minority groups which people feel so strongly about protecting. It has never been to my particular benefit.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for sharing your perspective, Erin. 🙂 I think equality and fair treatment are basic human rights that we should all strive for and support, but it complicates things when people outside a particular minority are essentially painting the people they are try to help as victims in order to support their cause. Several people close to me are disabled, so I’ve seen it firsthand and it’s a bit unsettling. Oftentimes, these people are suffering are disadvantage, but perhaps even more frequently people completely unfamiliar with the issue have a million opinions on what’s wrong and what needs to change; yet, if they were to ask the minority group, their needs are completely different than what the outside group is advocating for.
      It really is such a complicated issue, and seems to become more convoluted with each passing day, new social media platform, and new resistance movement.
      If you don’t mind me asking, from your perspective, what could people do to foster fairness and inclusion, and otherwise support you and other members of your minority group in ways that *would* be beneficial? I think ignorance plays a big part in people trying to protect others, and I’d love to replace any ignorance I may be harboring with action items–ways to actually help, in a meaningful way, without causing harm or offense.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I can only speak to my personal experience, but I have always preferred addressing differences head on. I recoil from sugar coating or mundane championing. People being nice and not harsh is, well, nice. But I think it’s detrimental long term. For me personally, if I accepted all the careful pussyfooting around me as how it should be, I would be extremely vulnerable when I encounter people who are less careful. Our movement towards politically correct everything, always really frustrates me because I feel personally as though it makes us weak.

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      2. I completely agree. When I was younger, I was very soft-spoken, so it was hard to be assertive and face things head on. However, with age and the frustration of issues not actually being resolved. As hard as it is for me, it’s nearly always worth it to point out an opposing opinion, reveal a glaring fault, and criticize something (or someone) that could benefit from my insights. In retrospect, the comments I’ve learned and grown the most from are those that were hard to hear. The hard truths made me stronger, more well-rounded, more confident, and better equipped to help others. I fully agree that all the political correctness is making people weak, and it’s time we all come together to have those hard, yet entirely necessary, conversations that will help move our species forward, rather than further the divide.

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  2. While I agree with much of this, the problem with the Braves and Indians wasn’t the baseball team, it was the logos associated with the teams. Both teams featured red face and yellow face mascots that were, during their usage, considered to be insensitive to Native American groups. While the Braves stopped using their logo in the 1960s (fully switching to their current tomahawk logo in the 1990s), the Indians have continued to keep their logo well into this century. Though the team is phasing out the logo after this year, it’s long overdue (not to mention a bit shameful as someone from the city).

    There are respectful ways to pay homage to Native American culture with sports mascots and logos. Look at the Florida State Seminoles and their relationship with the Seminole Nation as one well-known example of that. That said, the Cleveland Indians (as well as the Washington Redskins in the NFL) are not good examples of this behavior.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah yes, thank you for bring this up. I do agree with you on this point. The logos basically satirized a cultural group through a stereotyped cartoon, which I don’t agree. I fully agree that changing those logos was the right thing to do, as the old logos were racially insensitive. The continued movement towards more respectful team names, logos, and mascots is absolutely the right way to go.
      I suppose my perspective is that, reading over several articles and interviews, the majority of the Native American group being satirized were not offended. Some were even pleased that attention was being directed to their culture, even if in a somewhat negative manner. Those who were up in arms were generally outside of that particular minority. Perhaps this was necessary if the Native Americans didn’t follow sports, didn’t realize the logos were offensive, or didn’t know who approach with any concerns they did have.
      Thanks for your input on this! It such a tricky issue with a fine, ever-shifting line. However, I fully agree with you that blatant disrespect towards a group in on the “bad” side of the line, and should be rectified to the best of one’s ability, as soon as possible.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I could not hit the “Like” button fast enough.
    You touch upon some similar subjects that I write about.
    This was a great read.
    By forcing everyone to care about other people’s feelings, we create a divide. None of us like walking on eggshells. It leads to no conversations. No real diversity of thought. We are forced to think the same. How are people OK with that?

    Like

    1. Yes, you nailed it. In every arena, it’s US versus THEM. In politics, culture, religion, beliefs, values, sexuality, personal preferences, and more. Most people lack the ability to listen carefully and think critically. Pair that with confirmation bias, and people create their own echo chambers where everyone is repeating the same thing, and often criticizing the “other side,” never quite realizing that our views aren’t all that different after all.

      Liked by 1 person

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