Image: Michel Balasis

I was upset by something I saw on Facebook this past weekend. I won’t go into any details and I will never confront the individual, but I’m still thinking about it almost 24 hours later. It was just…mean. There’s no other word for it. Mean.

It’s possible that this person’s observations and remarks hit me so hard because I too, can be mean. I’ve tried to reign it in over the years. And I don’t think it’s that I am mean to someone’s face. But I have certainly been known to make a snide or snarky remark, sotto voce, or perhaps internet-dm-voce, to a circle of close friends or sisters, about someone who I think has done something dumb or foolish.

Maybe I thought I was making a funny observation. Maybe I thought I had some sort of point, hinging on some sort of principle. I don’t know. I’m not denying it, though. I can definitely be kinda bitchy, and I am not sure that I always recognize it for what it is when I am doing it, but when I see it in someone else…oooof. It is not a good look. It’s awfully ugly, as a matter of fact. And in seeing this, and drawing parallels with my own behavior, I begin to feel a deep sense of shame. No doubt this is why I can’t stop thinking about this other person. Because that’s been me, as well. More times than I can count.

Bernard Meltzer is credited with having offered the following:

“Before you speak ask yourself if what you are going to say is true, is kind, is necessary, is helpful. If the answer is no, maybe what you are about to say should be left unsaid.”

And granted, there’s nothing fun about keeping your mouth shut. The experience of someone laughing at your clever commentary can be a high, and certainly one that I can ride on all day long. And there’s nothing worse than someone pooh-poohing your fun, I know! “That’s not nice,” seems like such a weenie thing to say, or to hear, like having a bucket of water dashed in your face, when you’re being hilarious, or at least you think you are, and on a roll!

But…more and more I realize (and I’m pretty sure I have always known this, deep down, where my heart is supposed to be) that being cutting and contemptuous, disguised as clever, and at the expense of kindness and compassion…well it’s not being clever at all. It’s rude and shitty.

There’s nothing clever or cool about shitting on people who are just enjoying things and living their lives. You’re just mean. And you look like an asshole. And so do I.

Maybe let’s just say nothing next time. Or if we do, let’s be more discreet* about it.

*And here’s where maybe I am the biggest asshole of all. Am I upset because the person was so mean and shitty, or because they were so thoughtless about who might be reading their words? Am I suggesting that we keep our mouths shut, or that we read the room and know our audience if we choose to flap our mean girl mandibles?

As usual, I have no answer. Maybe it’s just best to write about these things, passive-agressively.

Melmeister says

“If wisdom’s ways you wisely seek,
Five things observe with care,
To whom you speak,
Of whom you speak,
And how, and when, and where.”

-Caroline Lake Ingalls

S. Elizabeth says

She and Marmee March sound like they would have been bosom buddies :P
(Still...that's not bad advice!)

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