But he left the doors unlocked!

NextDoor is not known for being a place of warmth and positivity.

Someone’s car got broken into and they posted about it. Scores of comments on the post that mainly fell into three categories: 1-mine too; 2-that sucks; 3-were your doors locked?

At some point, the writer conceded that he hadn’t locked his doors and that it was his fault.

You know what? It’s not his fault. He didn’t decide to go into someone else’s car and take their stuff. Whether it’s “easy” or not, you don’t take things that don’t belong to you. (And where is the line on doing “enough” that it’s not your fault any more?)

Changing gears. (These thoughts will convene later.)

I was listening to How to Say the Right Thing at the Worst Time, an episode of How To! with Charles Duhigg. They were talking about grieving, and the super-unhelpful things that people say to others who are experiencing loss and/or grief.

“It’s meant to be,” “it’s God’s will,” and “everything happens for a reason” are all more or less the same statement and all minimize the person’s pain.

What do these two stories have in common?

Vulnerability shields.

I have taken in a lot of Brené Brown’s work, and I can’t tell you if she said this or if I synthesized what she’s said and came up with it. Either way, she’s definitely somehow involved.

We blame the victim (V) because if the thing that happened is V’s fault, then we (everyone else: EE) have control over whether or not we’re a victim ourselves. “See? They left their door unlocked/went walking at night/wore the wrong clothes/said the wrong thing and I’m smart enough not to do that, so that bad thing won’t happen to me.” It allows EE to feel safe in a situation that really is somewhat random.

Also if it’s V’s fault, then EE can be a perpetrator and let yourself off the hook … because it’s V’s fault for leaving their bike in their yard or getting drunk or putting their art online, and if they hadn’t done that, EE wouldn’t have had a situation to take advantage of in the first place.

(In the following, I’m going to continue to use V to denote the person on the losing end of the transaction, though in normal conversation, I wouldn’t use the word victim to describe their position.)

“It was meant to be” and the others that are similar are the same shield for EE. It was meant to be … for you. Thankfully, I’m not The Chosen One for God or the universe or whatever power is doling out raw deals. These platitudes also allow EE to stay at arm’s length from V, to avoid feeling the unpleasant emotions required of empathy. And they dismiss the feelings of the person spoken to.

Basically, in both cases, it’s more about EE making ourselves more comfortable instead of acknowledging that it’s going to be uncomfortable for a bit and sitting with it.

Yes, it could happen to any of us. Yes, that’s uncomfortable and scary. Yes, we should sit with that anyway to help the people around us.

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