“We are a society of scolds and that’s not good.” The older lady told me this as her opening gambit to begin a conversation at the coffee shop last week.
I had been sipping coffee, daydreaming, and half-listening to a radio newscast filter from behind the counter into the seating area of the small establishment. The fellow patron of the coffee shop looked at me and commented further on the news story that had just been read. One of the many presidential candidates had released yet another tirade about how certain people are a symptom of “America’s moral decline”. The lady said she doesn’t know anybody who reacts positively to getting “chewed out”.
I replied by saying that we will need to get used to the ever increasing barrage of self-righteous preaching and scolding as the campaign season heats up even more. We can expect ever more entrenchment of opinions and beliefs as Americans choose sides in our never-ending game of “King of the Hill”.
She went on to vent her frustration by mentioning that politicians are not alone in the scolding of Americans. Almost daily, we have to put up with religionists, experts, celebrities, and other self-appointed moralists who believe it is their duty to modify our behavior.
I told the lady she was singing my tune. I have been dismayed at all the preachifying that has increased to a fever pitch across the nation. I thanked her for saying “We are a society of scolds”. The statement helped me look at this global problem from a new angle. We commisserated a few more minutes, then she departed.
Then I thought about the last time I had been personally scolded. It happened a couple of months ago, when a friend accused me of being effete and arrogant. The scolding caught me off-guard, because I hadn’t been berated since my late teens.
I observed that the recent scolding instantly triggered resentment and the need to protect myself. Swiftly, my mind constructed a protective wall to shield me from my friend’s words and anger. I couldn’t help but feel a regression to the worst part of my youth. It took a couple of days to talk myself out of the feelings of resentment.
There is a controversial view by some child-development experts that most children who are severely scolded by their parents suffer nearly as much as children who are physically spanked and beaten by angry parents. Children who receive such severe punishment are more likely to harbor long-lasting resentments and hatred towards their parents. If severe punishment has been administered in order to correct bad behavior, the children alter their behavior out of fear rather than understanding why their behavior was bad.
The majority of us want to pull out the stops and retaliate when we are the target of a scold. We feel like cornered animals and want to fight our way out of the situation and escape to safety. We battle for our self-respect and our honor. It’s difficult to maintain our composure while being scolded. Being scolded feels like we’re being beaten into submission by words.
The person who is doing the scolding thinks she/he is performing a beneficial service. The person on the receiving end may instead interpret the scolding as abuse. It would be great if people refrained from scolding, but we know it will continue as long as society exists.
To a greater degree, some scolding results in real, negative social impact. Often, this manifests in the abridgement of civil rights. Worse, some people will feel validation in their urges to commit violence against minorities or people with whom they disagree. Constant scolding by public figures serves to degrade the level of debate about societal issues.
Whether the scolding takes place on a national scale or a personal level, the result is often an escalation of the dispute and a stalemate that can last many years.
I wish I had more expertise about the scourge of scolding, but all I can do is observe and write about my thoughts regarding the problem. Unless a person is housebreaking a pet or rebuking a child for severe misbahavior, I see little value and more harm from scolding.
When discussion of an issue is necessary, the best route is sober, thoughtful, respectful conversation. In my opinion, scolding is demeaning to both the scolder and the scolded.
The Blue Jay of Happiness likes this saying and Internet meme from the writer, Samuel Butler: “The great pleasure of a dog is that you may make a fool of yourself with him and not only will he not scold you, but he will make a fool of himself, too.”