I am no saint, although, rumor has it, they did play the song "Goody Two Shoes" for me when it was my turn to light a candle at a friend's Sweet Sixteen many years ago. I might have had that reputation. Now, at 37 years old, I am not claiming to be perfect by any stretch of the imagination. Many areas need improvement. But, the one thing I can say about myself, unequivocally, is I am not mean. I never deliberately try to hurt anyone and can't imagine trying to inflict pain. Yet, I've come face to face, as most of us have, with people who act, well, mean.
Why? How do you get an ounce of joy knowing your words and actions caused someone heartache? What part of you delights in hurting someone, maybe even someone who trusts you and has been vulnerable with you? What went wrong in your life that being mean feels okay and acceptable to you?
We teach our students about being "bucket fillers" who help other people get filled with joy and love. We say being a "bucket dumper" will never bring you happiness- dipping into someone else's bucket won't make yours any fuller. (If you haven't read Have You Filled A Bucket Today, this is the book I am referring to! You should totally read it.) We try to show our students that kindness is always the answer and always possible. But how do we protect our students from the broken hearts that come when others act in unkind ways? How do we protect ourselves?
Experiencing meanness is hard and sad. I think you have to be really kind to yourself and be sure you have a strong, positive self image that can weather the storm of cruelty. At the end of the day, you know who you are, and if you know you aren't mean, then that's saying something. Truly.