My Granddaughter called to talk to me the other day and at one point during our conversation she asked me a question: “Why are people so mean?” We discussed this for a while before ending our conversation but the question has haunted me ever since. We seem to live in a society that revels in being mean and has for some time. We go on our social media accounts and we are “trolled.” People will post awful comments about us or what we have written sometimes without even knowing anything about us. We are unfriended by people we know because we have a different viewpoint. We call each other names with the intent of making the other person less than human. Someone we can revile and not feel guilty. We are even assaulted daily by television programming that puts down others who have opposing views. Making them seem less intelligent…less compassionate…less human. All done in terms most derogatory. TV and movie stars, as well politicians and sports stars, in fact anyone who is in the public eye, seems to think it is completely appropriate to be hateful towards others and then when called out on their behavior blame anything and everything but themselves as the root source. In short, American culture is a “mean” culture.
I have to be honest, I can’t help but wonder about how we got here. How did we become a mean society? Well…I honestly don’t have the answers to that question. But I would like to offer up two thoughts. First, I think we take our right to free speech too far. Now, please know I am not advocating any changes to our constitution. I like my right to free speech thank you very much. But as I am going about my day speaking to people, I don’t wield my right to free speech by abdicating my responsibility to treat others with common decency. I filter. I wish others would do the same. I can’t tell you how many times I have been out in public and my ears have been assaulted by foul language. Even worse is when young children are around and they hear what I hear. It isn’t pretty. Or someone has said something to you or hurt your feelings and you just unload on them. Again, not ok and not pretty. We don’t, any of us, follow the “do unto others” principle. Or as I was taught growing up: “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” Our society seems to think it is perfectly acceptable to say whatever crosses our minds with no filters in place.
My second thought about this is that being nice not only begins with each one of us as a choice we make every second of every day…it also begins from the top down. Parents, if you want your children to be respectful…you need to be respectful. Grandparents, if you want your sons and daughters to be respectful, and nice…you need to be respectful and nice. If we want our society to be a respectful, nice society to live in, we need to demand (respectfully) our leaders be respectful and nice as well.
Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that these are only two simple thoughts on a very complex issue. One I will tell you concerns me as well as confounds me.
While I can’t speak for any of you, I will say that I for one am tired of living in a culture that seems to celebrate being mean. Please know, I am not perfect. I make my own share of mistakes and have at times even contributed to the very issue I am talking about. Much to my own shame. But here is the thing: I am going to commit to work hard to live out the “do unto others” principle. I am going to commit to treat people from the basic fact that we are all created in the image of God and we are deeply loved by him and if God loves each and every one of us…how can I not love each and every one in return?
For those who are not sure if you believe in God or not, then may I suggest the principle of Namaste? Which means that the divine in me, sees the divine in you.
Won’t you join me?
3 responses to “On Being Mean…”
Well written Beth…
I was mean to a woman I liked because I figured she would reject me if she ever got the chance. So I bullied her with my friends and pretended I hated her. It was pathetic, but it made me feel better. Because then if she didn’t like me, there would be an actual reason. Instead of her just not liking me because of who I am.
I think we have all been mean to someone in our lives at some point. When we take the time to acknowledge our actions, like you have done, we can grow from them and work to never treat people in a way that would cause harm. If it is at all possible we should try to apologize but sometimes, enough time has passed, that locating the person we hurt is impossible. As we move away from the person we once were, and choose to be kind to others, I believe that with each kindness we show, we are offering an apology to the one we hurt but can not apologize to in person. Blessings to you.