Early in our courtship, Mike and I lived and worked about an hour away from each other. We’d listen to ” Dr, Laura”, so we would have something to talk about that had more to do with how we were inside than the shallow everyday stuff a person does (“Oh, I put up a new board. Did a math test. Hate Tuppers. . what’d you do?” ” Stripped the roof off the church. Finished hanging rock. Got that paint you wanted for the bedroom. Wanna run to Home Depot?” We would use Dr.Laura’s radio show as a jumping off point at dinner. Some would call in and present her with a dilemma and she’d tell them what she thought. Sometimes I agreed and sometimes not, but it certainly got family conversations started. We learned how to state opinions and ask questions and since many of the big Problems on her show was some we were going to run into or had run into, it made for pleasant conversation.
Everyone has a mean person in his or her life. I’ve had one in mine for the past 8 years. To be truthful, it really upset me in the beginning. It wasn’t because anything this person said had validity, but rather it bothered me she could keep doing ferocious things without consequences. I was brought up to think if you did something bad, there was always a consequence. And to this day, it’s overwhelming to me that people get away with doing bad things.
However, at this point in my life, I think it’s funny so much of this person’s existence revolves around being ferocious toward me. Nonetheless, most of you are not at that stage.
We all know what mean people are like — they gossip about you to others, ignore you, say hurtful things, break or steal your stuff, belittle you, set you up to get into trouble for something you didn’t say or do, call you names, imply you’re not as clever, good-looking, well connected, valuable or nice as they are, intimidate you, leave unfriendly or unkind messages about you on social media sites, and break promises they swore they’d keep.
Yet, people don’t seem to want to accept some people are just plain mean. Remember The Hillside Strangler during the 1970s? They molested, tortured, and murdered women, and then scattered their body parts around. I remember the psychiatrists (the “whores of the court”) coming out of the woodwork during the trial saying The Strangler must have been crazy. But, I also remember one female psychiatrist’s interview in a long documentary about the case. When asked about The Strangler, she said, “All I can tell you is some people are just evil.” That’s what people don’t wish to accept – they want to make evil an illness that they can fix. They think if they can fix it, then a) they won’t have to face the mean people in their own lives, and b) they feel in control – i.e. if you can fix someone with pills, you have control over him or her.
Therefore, evil does not exist for a lot of people. Evil is just something that needs fixing. But I’m here to tell you evil is NOT a psychiatric illness. People who put other people in ovens and gas showers, shoot or burn their fellow man, or throw babies up in the air for target practice are evil!
If you’ve been dealing with a mean person at work, in your neighborhood, in your club, or in your family, the best way of handling that person is to not go up against him or her. You can’t win. You’re unequipped to deal with a mean person unless you’re equally bad. Mean people have no rules and no limits. You do. Try to avoid contact with the person. If you’ve tried to sort things out and he or she decides to keep being mean, there isn’t much you can do to influence or change his or her mind. If this person actually hates you or feels like he or she can’t lose face by dawning a different attitude, you don’t have to put up with it. Remove yourself. Don’t listen to his or her taunts, don’t read the crap he or she writes about you, and don’t have any connection to his or her spiteful attitude. Let this person know you’re not going to tolerate it and make a clean cut. Even the meanest person may get bored when his or her target stops responding.
I remember one Star Trek episode (from the original series, which I still think was the best) where a hazy, dusty force took over the Starship Enterprise and caused the crew to get mean and fight with each other. The crew tried to kill it, confront it, and reason with it, but to no avail. Finally, somebody figured out the haze was a force that ate anger and used it as energy to get bigger and stronger. To stop the force, Captain Kirk got on the intercom and told the crew that no matter how much anger they all felt, they should all laugh and hug. The thing shriveled up and went away.
I thought the episode offered a nice parallel to how we should approach meanness. Similar to the Enterprise crew, no matter how much we try to confront or reason with meanness, we can’t. Some people simply need to be mean to feel better about themselves. And there are people like that all over the world.
My advice? Just get out of their way. Don’t take it personally. Unfortunately, karma won’t always kick in and nothing bad necessarily will happen to them. In fact, sometimes they lead long and financially successful lives. That may be hard to swallow, but the quality of your life is more important.
So laugh. Throw your head back and laugh. Let them pound sand and not you.