Traveling with colleagues, I excused myself after lunch to freshen up. Imagine my confusion when I returned to an empty table. Neither my colleagues nor the others we’d met with were to be found. I assumed they must have been paying the bill and readying to leave the restaurant. Bear in mind, this was my first time in that city, we’d parked some distance away and had walked a few blocks to get there. Fear and disbelief bubbled up when I realized they’d actually left without me. Gathering my things I headed out in the direction I’d hoped was the parking garage. About two blocks away, with my head down into the biting wind, I heard “surprise!” as they jumped out at me from an alley. There, in the heart of it all was the ring leader, laughing hysterically. The others laughed too, but not as loudly. It was obvious who’d led the pack and when my reaction was less than charmed, his words stuck the final blow, “Geez, can’t you take a joke?”
I’ve been witness to others’ pranks and the intended of many more. Some were harmless – a plastic spider placed perfectly for a Halloween scare – but most were mixed with just enough cruelty to leave only a furrow of resentment behind.
I’ve spoken up, I’ve protested, I’ve defended and, shamefully, sometimes I’ve kept quiet. Indignation has consistently been met by “Geez, can’t you take a joke?”
Being the youngest of 5 kids, yes, I can take a joke. I really can.
But … I’d prefer to laugh with you vs. being laughed at.
I am happy to be part of the fun, but I’d rather not be … the source of yours.
Being the “butt” of jokes hurts our feelings, destroys trust and the only thing that thrives is … ego. And it’s not ours.
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“In everything do to others as you would have them do to you.” -Matthew 7.12
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(by Alan Teal)
1) Harmless fun lets everyone enjoy themselves
- Think of going to a party and playing charades or cards with your friends; think of children playing “Freeze Tag” at a family reunion
- Everyone chooses to play; everyone has a chance to laugh and have fun
2) Harmless fun means no one ends up embarrassed or hurt
- Your date uses a lampshade as his prop in charades and everyone laughs
- When you have a choice, it’s fun
3) Bullying starts when someone is singled out without their consent
- When someone is chosen as the “butt” of the joke without their knowledge, bullying has begun
- The intent is to embarrass, scare or humiliate
- Some people don’t mind being the center of attention but many do
4) Bullies aren’t happy with just the laugh
- They need to talk about the prank over and over
- They relish telling the victim how “funny” their reaction was, how “hilarious” the situation is and, therefore, how witty they are
- They like to tell the target how ‘everyone was in on it,’ thereby increasing the humiliation factor
- A bully’s laughter comes when the target is put down, made to feel smaller so … they can feel larger
5) Groups can be bullies, too.
- If you hear about a prank ahead of time, speak up. Your silence equals permission
- Confront the organizers. Let them know you are uncomfortable with their plans; chances are others are also but lack courage to speak up (Pack mentality… the weakest follow the strongest).
- If it appears that the person to be pranked won’t appreciate it, the shift from harmless fun to bullying has already started
- Be brave enough to be the “party pooper” and tell the victim ahead of time.
I can take a joke; the question is .. why should I have to?