How to avoid being mean

When hurt, we want to hurt right back. Hard too! Rather than admitting we're in pain--which is also allowing ourselves to feel vulnerable and human--we turn around and maim. We turn on the mean girl & guy button and we cut people down with words, shitty attitude, gossip, vicious rumors, physical strikes--we kill spirits and much more. We seek revenge in epic proportions.

Ekhart Tolle calls this reaction the body pain. Cornel West, who has been the target of some vicious press because of his rightful critique of President Obama's anti poverty record among other things, says that seeking revenge against those who talk ish about him would have been the wrong response because he would have been dragged to their gutter. Love, he explained one recent evening, was the only rightful and noble response to those who heaped a pile vile toward him. Admittedly, West is a lot more evolved than I am. I guess that that is what the biblical advice "turn the other cheek" is all about. How I yearn to get to a place in my life where when hurt, rather than strike, I turn the other cheek...  I am a work in progress.

The thing is that wounding when hurt has become a global sport. It' a horrible bad habit and has become an addiction of mammoth proportions. But it's not just the world,  it plays out in the intimate spaces of our bedrooms, living rooms in addition to board rooms and the halls of Congress.

Meanness is universal Brene Brown says. She explains: "I know I am putting on my vulnerability armor when I rehearse the really mean things I want to say to someone," she writes. "Being mean, even if we are rehearsing a conversation, is easier than feeling hurt."

That's it! Why can't we just admit, to ourselves and to the person hurting us, that we are hurt? Why so hard? I think it has to do with the fact that to admit being hurt is to somehow be wimpy and we know emotional wimpiness is the devil. Modern day society shames us for admitting that we hurt, that we are vulnerable and at times, weakened by our emotions. So what? This is particularly hard for men since males are not allowed to confess that they hurt or that they feel weak. This is more and more true of women too. And therein lies the problem. We are not robots. We hurt, and deeply too. Are we a planet in a desperate need a global hug?

Brown, a researcher on the topic of vulnerability understands the role that shame plays in our society and why we run away from admitting being hurt. Shame and shaming people for feeling shit is a modern day curse.

And to my point of today's post: how to avoid being mean when someone you love, or don't, hurts you?

Next time you find yourself going there--being mean--take a deep breath, or two, or three, four, five or six, 200 or days or months, if needed. Check yourself. Do not respond. Try to understand why you hurt. It's not an easy practice because when emotions are involved, things can get grimy.

I remember in the fifth grade I read a passage that years later I came to understand. I was supposed to circle the correct meaning of how the word "recalled' was being used in a passage: "Words said in anger cannot be recalled." I mistakenly circled recalled as in remembered. The correct answer was recalled as in to take back.

So my lovely friends: be mindful when you speak in the midst of your pain. Better to stay quiet to let your breath be your song. I know, I know, it's hard.  I still struggle. But self control is so delicious because you will feel much better when you respond with compassion toward the person hurting you rather than going for the gutter and killing their spirit. Sage advice I try to heed myself as I duck the vile that I encounter.

Words declared while emotionally devastated can never be recalled. Neither can a physical strike. Or for that matter, vicious gossip. Which brings to mind another aphorism: an eye for an eye only causes blindness.