Things About Being Mean

One of the earliest things I remember learning (or being taught, at least) from my parents was that it is important to be nice, or to not be MEAN to other people. Specifically my sister. It took me almost thirty years to get that one straight (the sister thing) but I would like to believe I have almost mastered it. I am fairly certain I am still MEAN to other people from time to time, like my kids (just ask them), and that jerk Gabe at the Northtown Buckle Store who wouldn't take a brand new scarf back because it "smelled weird", and of course, my husband. I am meanest of all to him, and sometimes I really get angry at myself because I just. can't. help. it. So, being a wallower, I wallow about this. I ponder and wallow, or wallow in a pond of thoughtfulness and ponderance... and I wonder WHY it is I gotta be SO MEAN. Being a good homeschooler and approaching the subject principally, we all know that the first step of dissecting any problem is to define. So I did. I MEAN, I could spiel off a pretty cool definition of MEAN and have you convinced that Daniel Webster himself wrote my version of what MEAN MEANS. But in case I was missing something obvious, I looked up several definitions of MEAN and took the MEAN average and most applicable one for my MEANING.

MEAN is a weird word. It refers to intent. It refers to Purpose. It represents representation and defines definition. MEAN can MEAN the MEANING of a thing, or it can MEAN small, insignificant,  and lowly. Or, as an adjective, it refers to the behavior that makes somebody feel small and insignificant and lowly. I was mostly concerned with this last intention of the word, and although the other definitions distracted me along the way, and I spent some time mulling over what MEAN MEANT in correlation to the other MEANINGS of MEAN, and it was kind of interesting. But here is the pertinent definition:


2  [meen] 
adjective, mean·er, mean·est.
offensive, selfish, or unaccommodating; nasty; malicious: a mean remark; He gets mean when he doesn'tget his way.
small-minded or ignoble: mean motives. contemptible, despicable.
penurious, stingy, or miserly: a person who is mean about money. niggardly, close, tight,parsimonious, illiberal, ungenerous, selfish.
inferior in grade, quality, or character: no mean reward.
low in status, rank, or dignity: mean servitors. common, humble; undignified, plebeian.

MEAN is bad. It's ugly. Or it's the relegation to ugliness that one human being can put on another. That's the kind of MEAN I wasn't supposed to be to my sister. And probably the one that my husband and I are proficient at dealing out to each other. Shame on us. 

MEAN is the little jabs we throw at each other when our wills our crossed, our pride is compromised, or our spirits are wounded. The words we know just how to say and when to say to inflict the most depreciation to the ones that we "love". Human beings are much less often MEAN to someone that we don't know. We are the MEANEST to the ones we know the best. But really, when you look at the definition of the word, being MEAN really MEANS that our offensiveness reduces us, the inflictors of the MEAN, to low in status and ignoble (great word, BTW). MEAN people are really the small people themselves. Seeking to bring everyone around them (and often successful with those in closest proximity), down to their level. MEANNESS is born out of the same inferiority that it deMEANS others with. And how much of that is rooted in deep hurts that have never been healed. Never been calmed with the salve of kindness, the opposite vital lesson that I was taught simultaneously to the importance of being not-MEAN. 

Kindness is the antidote. It is the only cure for the contagious illness of MEANNESS. It fixes it coming and going. MEANNESS met with MEANNESS just breeds even lower, nastier levels of MEANNESS. MEANNESS met with kindness is stopped dead in it's tracks and reprimanded for it's foolishness and uselessness. Kindness delivered against MEANNESS back fills the swampy, hurting muck of a soul with clean, solid earthy goodness. Gives it something to step up on to. Kindness is the antidote and inoculant and answer for all MEANNESS. Kindness is my goal. And good Lord, do I fail. Miserably. But it's my goal. And every day I bite my tongue and speak kindness in return for MEANNESS. And even if the MEANNESS continues, I haven't gotten down in the muck with it. Except for the times that I do. And then I have to go out of my way to be really super-duper kind at the expense of my pride and my ego and give myself a foothold out of the pit. Thanks to my parents I learned how to do that. Some people's parents just didn't know that teaching your kids to be not-MEAN is the first most important lesson that they can learn to be a bigger person. Kindness makes up the difference. Accommodating, nice, generous, open, high-quality, dignified, GOOD. I'd like to be those things. And I'd sure like to be kinder.