When people warned me that he wasn’t a good friend, I just smiled sheepishly and shrugged. Sure, he was not perfect. Yet, a quirky, introverted, socially-anxious preteen girl took the friends she could get. So, I told myself repeatedly, “It’s not a big deal.”
It’s not a big deal if he tells me to shut up. I do talk too much.
It’s not a big deal if he belittles my dreams. They won’t come true anyway.
It’s not a big deal if he slaps my face. It was a gentle hit to keep me from being too weird.
Years passed by before I finally (physically weak with anxiety) turned away from that relationship. To the day, however, little anger or bitterness is felt toward that person. The “it’s not a big deal” mentality still taunts me.
There seem to be many people who have been hurt by assault, abuse, teasing, or harassment who respond in this manner. Instead of telling a parent or authority figure about being raped, many girls or boys remain silent, plagued by guilt. Children who are bullied begin to believe that the problem is themselves and that the cruel words or actions are warranted. Knowing that other people have it worse, those wounded do not speak out about their pain.
I certainly have struggled with knowing it could have been worse. Thinking this is helpful to a certain point. Yes, I am thankful that another man did not rape me. But being thankful for that does not negate the fact that he forced me to kiss him for a long time. Saying that this horrific experience was “not a big deal” because it could have been worse belittles my terror, disgust, and dignity.
This mentality also allows for those who are truly responsible to take less of the blame. Is it really “not a big deal” that he hit her or she taunted him? What if the abuser thinks like that, assumes that what he or she is doing is fine because it could be worse? Isn’t allowing this type of thinking just instilling a sense of rightness for wrong actions?
Plus, this thinking makes even “nice” people do awful things. I have had guys who were considered positive, fun, or kind by others do awful things to me. Some of their reasoning that I collected from their reactions and that of others was the fact that they didn’t think what they did was that bad. In other words, it could have been worse and wasn’t “a big deal.” Sound familiar?
Now, if you have been abused or harmed by another person and think like this, I don’t blame you or want you to feel ashamed of it. Viewing the situation this way is one way that I coped with the fact that others hurt me. Finding another way to think about the situation is difficult and certainly still a struggle for me.
However, if you have said to someone in pain something along the terms of “that wasn’t not a big deal,” I would encourage you to think deeply about your words. If you justify your actions with “I could have done worse,” you really should reflect upon the choices you’re making. I don’t say either of these actions to shame or condemn you. Instead, I want to encourage us to support each other instead of making pain worse.
Yesterday, I waited an hour for the bus. Everyone was cranky, but it really wasn’t a big deal for me in the end. I still returned home.
That truly wasn’t a big deal. But being slapped, belittled, shamed, assaulted, and bullied? All of those situations are a big deal.