How insults can be calming, liberating, and informative
An insult says more about the insulter than the insultee. People usually look like the insulter is saying something about the insultee. Usually not.
An insult expresses the insulter’s emotions, directed at what brought them about. For example, if someone is insecure about their body and they see someone with a body they’d be insecure with, they might insult that person to try to feel more secure or deflect others from observing them.
I came to that conclusion a while ago and it’s amazing how calming, liberating, and informative the change in perspective has been.
First, it’s calming. When you have the perspective that everyone is responsible for their own emotions, you realize their anger, indignation, impatience, or whatever comes from their beliefs not fitting with how they view the world. Their view is bringing them pain.
They’d rather change the world than themselves so they insult others. Does that mean the other person deserves the insult? Not likely.
Next time someone insults, belittles, or puts you down for your intelligence, body, political views, religious views, choice of friends, and so on, ask yourself what their comments say about their emotions regarding their intelligence, bodies, political views, religious views, choices of friends, and so on.
When I hear someone call someone else stupid, I’ve come to conclude the person saying it is insecure about their own intelligence. Someone who insults another for their body is likely insecure about their body.
Likewise, people who are comfortable with their bodies don’t insult others. The people I know who are most comfortable with their bodies praise others who accept and appreciate their own, independent of their physical shape. They empathize with them.
Second, it’s liberating. You don’t have to respond as if they hurt you. When someone insults me, with the view that they’re expressing hurt they are responsible for, I feel compassion. I find it useful to thank them for expressing their views.
Someone calls me an idiot on a message board for expressing my views on some current event that clash with theirs? I respond “Thank you for sharing your views.” Someone says not eating meat is unhealthy and I’m ignorant for not knowing? I say “We seem to have come to different conclusions.” Someone judges me for my behavior? I say “It seems we have different standards. Mine work for me. I hope yours work for you.”
Third, it’s informative. Insults tell you a lot more about the insulter than you’d think. Choosing to insult someone shows the strength of someone’s pain. The focus of insults reveals someone’s values. That they feel hurt reveals the weakness or brittleness of their conviction or understanding of that value.
People don’t like to reveal their vulnerabilities, but insults do just that, usually from people who want to protect them most.
Important corollary: insults express little or nothing about the person insulted — only the insulter’s opinion of that person. No one insults someone on verifiable facts, only opinion. “You’re fat” is an opinion that says the person saying it is worried about his or her own weight. “You weigh 200 pounds” doesn’t come off as an insult. It’s just a statement that isn’t particularly hurtful.
Caveat: if the person insulted is also insecure or has weak or brittle values, that person may feel pain. If so, the insulter may have instigated the pain, but the insultee is still responsible for their emotions. People with weak or brittle values or who don’t know themselves can get into fights this way.
The better you know your values and emotions the less you provoke or get provoked into disagreements.
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