When I was a kid, I remember being really uncomfortable as I watched one particular episode of the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon show entitled “Michelangelo’s Birthday.” In it, Michelangelo is excited one morning because it’s his birthday, and he can’t wait to celebrate. It’s not even that he feels entitled to a party and presents or anything like that. He just wants to feel a sense of camaraderie as his brothers and father figure Splinter acknowledge their gratitude that he’s part of their family. He even starts out the day by making a special birthday pizza not for himself but to share with his brothers.
And what response does he get? Indifference. His brothers feign ignorance about the importance of this day to Michelangelo. They gobble up his birthday pizza without even taking a second glance and acknowledging what it signified. They did that to prevent Michelangelo from spoiling the surprise about their own party that they have planned for him later that day. But what they actually do is make him feel worse and worse. They could easily find a nicer way to go about it or even throw the surprise party sooner, but they stretch out his misery to the point of cruelty.
After enduring hours of teasing and rudeness, Michelangelo finally runs away, leaving a note to say that they don’t seem to love him anymore, so they’re better off without him. Only then do they seek to make amends, but first they have to go through several life-and-death situations that could have been easily avoided if Michelangelo hadn’t run away. If it weren’t for a magical plot device at the end of the episode, they would have paid a heavy price for their cruelty.
I squirmed so much while watching that episode as a kid, and I still find it uncomfortable to endure. I bring this up because I recently saw something like this play out in real life.
A friend of mine is really good at using a certain computer for his work, and he was recently told that his place of business would no longer allow anyone to use that type of computer. He would have to switch to a different one because of this policy change. He reacted in confusion and despair, pleading to be allowed to keep his machine instead of having to switch to a new one because he wouldn’t be able to do his job as well if he were forced to change that drastically.
He squirmed for several minutes until it was revealed that his coworkers had been pranking him. In truth, there was no policy change. They had just wanted to play a joke at his expense. They laughed at his pain and mocked him for taking it so seriously. I am far from perfect, and I don’t want to come across as being self-righteous or overly critical of these people. Perhaps their intentions were to challenge my friend not to take his gifts for granted and to appreciate the freedom afforded to him. I just have trouble seeing how this could be construed as being a good way to go about doing something like that. I don’t understand how anyone could derive pleasure from someone else’s pain.
I understand that mockery between friends is meant to toughen people up and help them develop thick skin against outside threats. However, I don’t think something like this will have a positive effect on the personal relationships of those involved. What is my friend to learn from this experience? That his associates have his best interests at heart, or that they are not to be trusted in the future? No one likes to be made a fool of. All this will do is teach my friend to guard his heart and never reveal anything personal about himself that would be subject to ridicule in the future. It might be helpful to do mean things that make people close themselves off to naively trusting others, but what a terrible price those who do those mean things must pay. Luckily, my friend is a good man, and he’s willing to forgive and forget. He is wise to do that because holding grudges isn’t the way to be happy. As I’ve discussed in previous articles, forgiveness is extremely beneficial to the one who is forgiving as well as the one who is being forgiven.
I would encourage following the Golden Rule rather than being cold and cruel, even in jest. The latter behavior has the potential to destroy trust and foster animosity, not closeness. As the Ninja Turtles might say, being kind is radical, but it shouldn’t be a radical concept.
This is the Deja Reviewer bidding you farewell until we meet again.
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