My Mullings and Musings on Meanness

December 20, 2007

I have to get to Christmas stuff, but I did want to post something this week.

In reality, I think it’s pretty unproductive, and usually unfair, to label an entire group of people as mean. I would rather understand why meanness happens and what I might be able to do about it.

I have been reading a book that has helped me personally understand this better. I will briefly sum up some of my thoughts from what I have read and experienced (imperfect as I am).

If we understand that meanness is often the result of fear (or, I would add, sometimes the result of pain), we can better understand how to approach those who are mean (or be more self-aware when we are acting mean ourselves). (The book doesn’t use these words, but the concepts are there.)

If we run into a person who is acting in a mean manner, we might ask ourselves, “What is he/she afraid of? What is causing a felt need for defensive behavior?” And then, at the same time, we can ask, “What can I do so this person does not feel afraid or hurt or threatened?”

As simple as it sounds, I believe more than ever that the more we can help others feel safe and cared about, the less meanness we might run into. And the less inclined we will be to act in a mean manner as well!

Perhaps this a reason the Savior commanded us to love our enemies and pray for them and do good to them. The more we do that, the more we are sure that our hearts are right (a key to making sure we are acting in love, and that we have the Spirit so we can see things and others more clearly). Also, the more we act and react with love, the more chance we have of helping someone else feel more safe. In the end, our choice to love may be the choice that blesses our own lives as fear is reduced and meanness lessened.

Of course, this approach won’t always work. We may not always have the power to reduce the fear and pain in others’ lives because their source may run deep. But I think it’s worthwhile to do all we can not to unnecessarily add to others’ pain. We should also always be willing to look inside; someone’s meanness isn’t always just about what that person needs to change. Sometimes our own behavior can be a part of the problem. Often, we can change the nature of others’ reactions simply by changing ourselves and opening our hearts in love.

A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger. (Proverbs 15:1)

But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you…. (Matthew 5:44; see also 3 Nephi 12:44)

One comment

  1. Amen!

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