Toughness

Photo by  Ivan Vranić  on  Unsplash

Photo by Ivan Vranić on Unsplash

I had a conversation today that kind of started off weird. A person started off saying that people didn’t need all these anti bullying rules back in the day because nowadays everyone has all these feelings. I pointed out that people always had feelings, we just pushed them aside until we grew up and acted like angry entitled men who commit violent acts. It was never the feelings that were the problem but the way in which we did or didn’t deal with them in a healthy way.


It didn’t take long before it turned into a conversation about toughening kids up. I had to ask the question, “what is the lesson that being bullied teaches you?”. If you’ve had this conversation then I’m sure you know the answer, “they have to learn to deal with adversity”. I’m sure that many people won’t find this surprising but that answer doesn’t satisfy me. I am a person who wants to reduce the amount of adversity that people have to face. This seems alien to some people though and I can’t wrap my head around it.


What is the virtue of being tough? Where did this come from and what does it even mean? Is there some virtue to it that isn’t a product of already living in a world that is harder on people than it should be? We aren’t living in some movie where everyone needs to fight to survive. We are a communal species that thrives when we cooperate and if we do things right we can not only thrive, we can do it in a way that doesn’t hurt the environment. Yet somehow, toughness has become a goal and not just a byproduct a world and society that is already far to hard on people.


What does it mean to be fragile? Is there something to this that makes it a sin? I try very hard to imagine a world where we could all be made of glass and if we also live in a world where noone is going around and making a game out of breaking others then we can all just live. Never having to fear that our fragility even matters or will hold us back. Why should it? Why shouldn’t we all have our fragile nature respected and why should we have to be concerned with the people who want to break us?


Now, I don’t want to be a hypocrite so I have to acknowledge my own use of terms like white fragility or male fragility. Those are part of this troubling trend of wanting to be tough. Often the most fragile people are those who think they aren’t fragile at all. White people and men are often all over the place talking about how they are so tough but women, trans people, or people of colour are complaining too much and that it’s a weakness but then these white folks or male folks act in very fragile ways that wouldn’t really be as big of a deal if they hadn’t just been hard on others for being weak in their eyes. If they could let themselves feel more fragile and not have to pretend to be so tough then maybe they could see things through the eyes of those they attack, a bit better.


I don’t much care about fragility in others when they are not going around trying to shatter the people around them. You’re allowed to be fragile if you’re kind.


It occurred to me that this might be some kind of weird worshiping of suffering like one might find in Christianity. Like, suffering brings you closer to god or something but that doesn’t really make sense to me and in fact seems a little bit like evil. Which is sort of another thing I don’t really believe in but that’s probably best left to another blog post or something.


In case you hadn’t noticed I think that if we all treated each other well then we would be able to accept that some people are fragile and not condemn them for it. We would embrace them and if someone or something broke them, then we would help them as much as we can. I’m anti bullying, I’m pro safe spaces, I actually believe that the world should be one big safe space. Maybe if it was then all those people who think everyone needs to be tough wouldn’t feel the need to cover their own fragility with toughness.