December 19     

Today's quotation:

Any expression of mean-spiritedness or cruelty is a sign that you are in pain and you are attempting to relieve yourself of your discomfort by passing it along to others.  But this never works.

Alan Cohen

Today's Meditation:

And if it never works, don't do it, please.  There's absolutely no reason to be mean to other people, no matter what the circumstances, no matter how much you may think that it's going to make you feel better to do so.  The simple truth is that it's not going to make you feel better, just as that alcohol isn't going to drown your sorrows, just as those drugs aren't going to make you feel better about your life.  Being mean to others is simply an attempt to make yourself feel better by making someone else feel worse, and it's a horribly misguided strategy.

If we're in pain, if we're suffering, then the proper path to take to get to feeling better is not to make someone else feel bad.  When we do this, we diminish our own morals and ethics, and we turn ourselves into someone who isn't willing or able to show compassion to others.  We may think that we're going to feel better when that other person feels horrible, but as Alan says, "this never works."

I think that for most of us, the problem isn't fighting the tendency to be mean in ourselves, but how to deal with that tendency in other people who are mean to us and those we care for.  I don't recall ever feeling the desire to put someone down for the sake of being mean, but I do know that I have been mean to others without intending to be so.  Perhaps it could do us good to keep in mind that a mean person is a hurting person who is lashing out to try to deal with the pain they feel-- and their strategy isn't working.

Perhaps if we understand meanness more, we can deal with it more effectively when it touches us in our lives.  Maybe we can allow it to simply be, without allowing it to bring us down.  No, we shouldn't ignore it because it may lead to something worse-- and we need to be diligent to make sure that it doesn't do so-- but if we see it for what it truly is, we can definitely make ourselves feel better and possibly even help the mean person to abandon a strategy that's hurting other people without even creating the desired effect.

Questions to consider:

Why do mean people have such a strong effect on others when they're mean?

How might we go about looking at meanness and mean people in different-- and perhaps more understanding-- ways?

Why might pain in a person's life lead them to be mean to others?

For further thought:

My mother says that when Mrs. Rowley is mean, which is generally the case, it is really because she is just unhappy, and who could blame her with a husband like that . . . She says this is really the only reason people are ever mean-- they have something hurting inside of them, a claw of unhappiness scratching at their hearts, and it hurts them so much that sometimes they have to push it right out of their mouths to scratch someone else, just to give themselves a rest, a moment of relief.

Laura Moriarty

more thoughts and ideas on meanness



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