It Ain’t Easy Being Mean – or Kind

This post was inspired by a discussion I had with worldlittlelights in the comments section of Positive Projection. We talked about how hard it can be to think positive when you’re living among people who just don’t have time for that shit, or choose to focus on shit. There are people who believe that kindness and positivity are for the weak or naive. There are people who believe that kindness and positivity are good things and are necessary in life, but simply choose to focus on pessimism and negativity. I personally don’t know enough of these kinds of people to talk about them, but I can imagine how this kind of energy would rub off on others. So how would these others act in turn?

All of this made me think about how developing empathy and practising kindness takes a really long time to become a habit, much less become a part of your worldview and personal narrative. It comes with the realization that good things come to you when you project that kind of positivity, and with the various realizations of the same theme that follow. It comes with cliches that you live out in real life. It comes with multiple bad things happening to you, maybe at the same time, or one right after the other. Maybe it’s all of these things.

For me, kindness came as a result of confidence and vulnerability. I remember in high school, I’d put up a mean and tough front whenever I interacted with some classmates (most likely guys). I’d say mean and sarcastic things to get a laugh or to come across a certain way. I didn’t know this at the time, but I was acting that way because I didn’t want to come off as weak or vulnerable. I wasn’t terribly hurt or betrayed by others in the past, so I guess I had this fear of what could potentially happen if I were to open up. Kind of like Lena Kaligaris from The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants:

“She was sad about what happened to Kostos. And someplace under that, she was sad that people like Bee and Kostos, who had lost everything, were still open to love, and she, who’d lost nothing, was not.”

It’s this kind of openness that leads to people connecting with each other and introducing a little bit of kindness back to the world. Of course, this is what I’ve learned as I opened up to others bit by bit and began to trust myself in making these kinds of decisions. Being kind can be scary in a way. I didn’t really know that letting your guard down and being yourself would take a while to truly accomplish. Not knowing what you’ll be like on the other side isn’t exactly comfortable, whether it’s the other side of kindness or meanness. As with most other things in life, it’s the journey that’s the most significant.

Being mean and being kind take a lot of effort to maintain. If you want to be consistently kind or mean, you consciously make decisions every day that take you from one side to the next. Well, until it becomes a habit or even a reflex. You can decide for yourself whether it’s a healthy habit or not.