There is a tremendous misunderstanding about disrespect. I cannot pinpoint where it comes from or how we have managed to avoid asking questions about this crucial part of human nature. We all get disrespected left and right, almost daily, by different people, for different reasons. Disrespect is a pet peeve of mine, the kind of action that turns my brain off and within seconds, I can easily lose my fucking mind. It was ingrained in me, through no fault of my own I’d like to think. As a kid, I was a regular victim of bullying and disrespect, and all those actions leave residual feelings and a small dose of PTSD. It took me years to manage its effects and how to appropriately respond when disrespected. I struggle with disrespect to this day. Whenever I get disrespected, it is always the beginning of something ugly and it takes me a few moments to gather my thoughts, emotions and to adjust my behavior.
I believe dealing with disrespect is extremely hard for men. It stems from the fact we, men, have been told and taught to always react and absolutely, often violently when disrespected. We must respond to any slight otherwise we are labeled as weak, or cowards. We must assert our authority and presence. Every and any attack must be answered. It must be met with strength. One must, always, show their strength so they can be perceived as strong, not weak. The law of the jungle does say “eat or be eaten”. It is not an easy rule to live up to because nowadays people don’t physically fight as much anymore. A few decades ago, a fight would settle the “disrespect conundrum” but it isn’t that simple today. Moreover, any sign of disrespect that goes unanswered could ruin one’s reputation forever.
We have been brought up to see disrespect as the ultimate affront, the final insult, the point of no return, the darkest moment of our lives, the attempt to assassinate our masculinity and our very own identity. There is no graver attack than disrespect. It is just a fact of life. I know, people are going to start talking about toxic masculinity, patriarchy, whiteness and all that other bullshit, which I consider easy cop outs. Dealing with disrespect is way more complicated than those 3 fucking concepts, for crying out loud! The human psyche is complex and complicated. It’s always about more than 3 fucking words!
Personally, it took me more than 25 years to finally grasp disrespect. I cannot say I fully understand it, but I usually try. I am doing better in that regard. I used to be disrespectful to people whenever I felt slighted or whenever I was insulted or otherwise disrespected. That was when my insecurities ran my life, when I didn’t have the slightest idea of who I was or how to handle myself. Oddly, it seems like another lifetime ago. I remember being disrespected and losing my mind. I remember lashing out at people and being obnoxious, disrespectful, and immensely unpleasant. Then, the two most famous teachers there are, namely life, and experience taught me how to handle myself. I had to learn new ways of viewing and interpreting disrespect. It wasn’t easy and it still isn’t but I’m doing better in that regard.
So, here is the thing about disrespect; it isn’t about YOU. Crazy, right? For real, it isn’t. Listen, let’s be honest, let’s be real; if you did something, if you acted disrespectfully, if you hurt others, then you caused the disrespect and the don’t be surprised if the reaction is an equal amount of disrespect coming your way. Newton’s third law or the law of karma are adamant on that subject; if you act disrespectfully, you will be disrespected back. Action and reaction. Unbeatable concept.
Now…If you did nothing, if you didn’t start the hostilities, if you were just chilling and someone disrespects you, then it’s about them, not you. And that’s the hard part about disrespect; recognizing when you are a victim of disrespect and doing nothing because frankly, occasionally nothing should be done. I know. The first instinct is to answer but it doesn’t always work like that and it isn’t always beneficial to do so. Don’t get me wrong; I am not proposing you turn the other cheek as it is instructed in the New Testament. Nah! We are not doing that. Yet not every provocation needs an answer. Sometimes, doing nothing can be enough.
Think about it; if someone launches the first strike, out of nowhere because of a perceived slight, because we tend to misinterpret stuff every now and then, or because they are hurting inside or because they simply are stupid or crazy or filled with insecurities that run their life, please understand it is about the perpetrator, never the victim. Once you have understood that simple fact, it becomes easier to stay calm and to assess the situation, provided the person attacking you isn’t overly aggressive or way bigger than you and if they are not armed, that usually helps. The critical part is to reach that point where you recognize when to act and when not to act! I told you it isn’t easy.
I know it’s easy to sit here and talk about something as explosive, volatile and unstable as disrespect. But, once again, if you take the time and think about it, when someone disrespects you while you didn’t do anything to provoke them, that’s on them, not you. And if you know that crucial fact, it becomes a bit easier to manage. Yet it isn’t easy to shut up and say nothing when someone disrespects you, especially in public.
Recently, a young lady took it upon herself to psychoanalyze me. I personally love it when people do that because it allows me to see how others perceive me. I’d say it is a fun exercise. The young lady simply went off and said I scared her through my Instagram posts. She said I seemed dangerous. She said I was obsessed with myself and that I was narcissistic. And finally, she said it was only normal I was single, what kind of woman would wanna be with a guy like me? It is a miracle I survived such a “polite and complimentary” psychological assessment from someone I have never met! I mean, how lucky am I! At least, it would seem I got a free therapy session!
Now, let me be honest and clear…A 22-year-old Freeman would have happily shredded her to pieces. The number of insults, the ferocity of the words I would use, the intensity of my delivery, my ability to zero in on someone’s insecurities and fears…I mean, I would have murdered her soul because I was vindictive, mean, disrespectful and selfish back then. I know it was a way of fighting off disrespect, a way of masking my demons, a way of hiding my insecurities and fears. It was a way to attack so I won’t get attacked. Then, life happened. I grew. As a teenager in Burundi, I was always teased and disrespected because I looked different, and that simple fact helped me develop my big mouth. I can go toe to toe with anyone. I don’t care. You wanna compete with talk? You think you can win a verbal match with me? Alright, let’s go! I am sure I will beat you in the end.
However, I brushed everything the young lady said, no matter how disrespectful it was. I was able to remember this wasn’t about me; it was about her! She is the one who voluntarily made her assessment and shared it with me. I listened and I couldn’t help but laugh; I was laughing the whole time. And I kept remembering a crucial point; I don’t know her, and she doesn’t know me. I mean, respectfully, she could die, and I wouldn’t care, and I could die, and she wouldn’t care either. We are strangers to each other so her opinions about me have no weight at all. I certainly do not know why she launched all those missiles in my direction and frankly, it matters not. Once again, I don’t know her, she doesn’t know me and if she thinks she knows me because she read a few posts on social media, then she should literally review her whole psychoanalysis process, because it is deeply flawed wich shows she isn’t a trained professional.
So, I got disrespected and I survived. How about that? All I know is that I developed two skills that have served me extremely well. The first one is the ability to talk back with sarcasm, self deprecation, ferocity, meanness, and secondly the ability to be silent, as a grave. I assess the situation and I choose to talk or stay silent. I don’t always choose wisely and sometimes I bite the dust. However, I remember disrespect is about the person disrespecting me. It got nothing to do with me! They chose to attack me and disrespect me. Why did they do that? I am not here to discuss people’s intentions or thoughts because I am not in their brains or hearts. They have their own reasons and so long as they are not being overly aggressive, it is fine with me, they can say whatever they want.
As I said before, if you come at me, and I want to make sure you don’t ever come back, I will murder your soul with no remorse, second thoughts, or doubts. If you are a stranger to me, I will hack you to pieces or maybe I will just give you the silent treatment along with a smile and kiss. Through years of training, I have mastered the art of talking, answering, the art of sarcasm, insults, and plain small talk. So come at me and we shall have fun.
Finally, I would like to say that developing the art of talking is an invaluable skill. So, talk back, answer, don’t stay silent necessarily or choose silence if you don’t want to talk, that’s fine too. Nonetheless, remember one essential thing; DISRESPECT IS ABOUT THEM, NOT YOU. THEY CHOSE TO DISRESPECT YOU SO FUCK ‘EM!
Just one man’s opinion.
Now smile and go on with your day!