The first time I saw a T-shirt that said
“Mean People Suck,”
I thought, WOW, that is a powerful emotion, that has been clearly expressed!
I only wished I’d been the author.
I mention this because recently I’ve encountered several mean people, and I’ve had to remind myself that the Concept of Authorship is key to surviving these experiences.
I don’t know about you, but my favorite ways of reacting to mean people are:
(1) getting mean right back.
(2) lying down quietly to display the word welcome! written where my spine used to be.
Luckily, my job constantly reminds me that there’s a more responsible and effective way to live.
That’s why I love to write. It gives me the chance to sort out my feelings and experiences and put them into a neatly typed document.
This is how it is for us authors.
I say “us” because you’re an author, too.
I know that not everyone writes for publication, but every living person has the power of AUTHORSHIP when it comes to composing our lives.
Meanness emerges when we believe that we have no such power, that we’re passive receptors of life’s vagaries.
Inner peace follows when we begin responding to cruelty—our own and other people’s—
With the authority we’ve possessed all along.
Why are people mean?
Here’s the short answer: They’re hurt.
Here’s the long answer: They’re really hurt.
At some point, somebody—their parents, their lovers, Lady Luck—did them dirty.
They were crushed.
And they’re still afraid the pain will never stop, or that it will happen again.
There. I’ve just described every single person living on planet Earth.
The fact is that we’ve all been hurt, and we’re all wounded, but not all of us are mean.
Because those people who can experience tremendous tragedies in their lives,
or those who have suffered betrayal beyond belief and yet still have the capacity to love and be kind and gentle
Do so because they KNOW that their history of suffering can be a hero’s saga rather than a victim’s whine…
Depending on how they “write” it.
The moment we begin tolerating meanness, in ourselves or others, we are using our authorial power in the service of wrongdoing.
We have both the capacity and the obligation to do better.
Loving-kindness and compassion are the basis for wise, powerful, sometimes gentle, and sometimes fierce actions that can really make a difference – in our own lives and those of others.
– Sharon Salzberg
No wonder Sharon Salzberg is one of America’s leading meditation teachers and spirituality writers.
What she says covers the entire basis anyone ever needs to know as to why kindness costs nothing, brings joy, does as much for the giver as the receiver and can change society bringing unexpected rewards.
As Maya Angelou said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Now there’s another woman I admire for her wisdom and heart.
Catherine Ryan Hide in her book ‘Pay it Forward’ wrote about the story of an unhappy schoolboy who decided to do a good deed for those he came into contact with only asking that the person concerned did a good deed for someone else. The book was made into a film. What no one expected was that people who had read the book and seen the film started doing the same thing.
I understand that it seems like the act of being kind (as in pay it forward) is conditional, but once the joys and rewards associated with this way of being are felt it becomes like a welcome habit with benefits.
In primitive cultures, the primary source of threat to human beings is Nature.
But in economically-advanced countries, it is not nature, but other human beings who make us feel threatened most of the time.
Human beings are constantly hurting each other in both their intimate relationships and in Their social relationships.
Yes, sometimes the pain they inflict is physical,
but most of the time it is emotional in nature.
With a bit of reflection, it becomes quite apparent that Emotional Pain is the single greatest remaining threat that human beings must deal with in the modern era.
Just how big is this Emotional Pain Problem we are dealing with?
Well, it is only responsible for virtually all of the suicides, homicides, acts of violence, and cases of clinical depression that we see every day.
It is responsible for most of the wars that have been fought in modern times.
It is also responsible for the sad fact that most marriages, which begin as special unions between ‘best friends’, end up as painful wars fought by ‘worst enemies.’
Emotional pain is the biggest continuing problem that most humans will deal with in their lifetimes.
While human beings have displayed an impressive ability to tackle the challenges of biological pain, when it comes to the problem of emotional pain, they have remained largely clueless.
Why is that I wonder?
I believe that it goes back to the idea of AUTHORSHIP again.
We perceive events as story lines.
We continually (though often unconsciously) tell ourselves tales about life, and since no story can include every tiny event, we edit and spin the facts into the stories we prefer.
Many of our stories are pure fabrication.
And all of them are biased, dominated by our flair for the dramatic, our theories about life, and our fears.
I imagine that a typical mean person’s story line would go something like this:
“I am a victim; people want to hurt me; I must hurt them first to be safe.”
Maybe that explains why someone may unexpectedly turn ugly when you say something like:
“Please pass the salt”
“Hey, it’s raining.”
They immediately rewrite whatever they hear to support their story line (“She’s saying I’m a bad cook” or “He’s bringing up the weather to avoid talking about us”).
I honestly believe that for most people it is “The story”, not other people’s behavior, which is the factor that both motivates and excuses their hostility.
One definition of the word mean is “small.”
Mean people live small, think small, and feel small—the smaller, the meaner.
The belief that we are smaller and less powerful than others underlies most meanness, even when that belief is delusional.
But we can also use our author’s imagination to size things in our favor.
Think of a person who’s been nasty to you.
Imagine that person shrinking to one inch tall.
Picture your enemy stomping around in the palm of your hand, yelling or sneering all the customary cruelties.
You’ll find that if your critic is making a valid point, it will still sound accurate, but mere verbal abuse is hilarious when squeaked in the voice of an inch-tall Mini-Mean.
Whatever your reaction to this tiny villain, that’s probably the best way to react to your life-size challenger.
If the insults are laughable, just laugh.
If the mean person has a point, tell her that you get it, but she could stand to work on her people skills.
Practice what you would say if you felt big and invulnerable, then say it, even if you’re scared.
Be “big” by responding to cruelty with honest calm rather than aggression or submissiveness.
If you choose to write your life consciously, I promise you that you will find that a story that acknowledges your hero’s strength feels truer than one depicting you as a victim.
You’ll see that whatever your physical size, you really are a bigger person than any bully.
You’ll learn that the truth, no matter how hard, always strengthens you more than a lie, no matter how nice.
On the other hand, if you don’t take up your authority, you give mean people the power to write your life for you.
In the end, they will make you one of them.
That should give you the motivation you need to take up your authority, because let’s face it: