I was thinking about meanness today, about how the world seems to have gotten much harder and meaner. How workplaces have also. Or have they always been so and it's just me whose eyes have been opened for good? It's best to focus on the positive in life, and I try to for the most part. But I cannot ignore the suffering and pain I see around me and much of it is the result of unkindness on the part of mean-spirited people who do not wish others well. The reasons for their meanness are no doubt many. I'm sure there are many explanations and excuses for their not aspiring to be kind people. So as I was reflecting on this topic today, I found these quotes about meanness. The first one especially is just as true today as when it was written in 1945 (from the book Cannery Row by John Steinbeck), perhaps more so now. Steinbeck is spot on with his description of the traits of success that we claim to detest, but oh how 'successful' individuals in society who possess these traits are held in awe. We tend to forget (or perhaps we just want to forget) that ‘making it’ in terms of success may involve behaviors that are not very nice at all. The last quote is one of my all-time favorites.
It has always seemed strange to me... the things we admire in men, kindness and generosity, openness, honesty, understanding and feeling, are the concomitants of failure in our system. And those traits we detest, sharpness, greed, acquisitiveness, meanness, egotism and self-interest, are the traits of success. And while men admire the quality of the first they love the produce of the second.
Guard well within yourself that treasure, kindness. Know how to give without hesitation, how to lose without regret, how to acquire without meanness.
I consider nothing low but ignorance, vice, and meanness, characteristics generally found where the animal propensities predominate over the higher sentiments.
--William John Wills
Empathy is really the opposite of spiritual meanness. It's the capacity to understand that every war is both won and lost. And that someone else's pain is as meaningful as your own.
All the meanness, all the revenge, all the selfishness, all the cruelty, all the hatred, all the infamy of which the heart of man is capable, grew, blossomed and bore fruit in this one word, Hell.
--Robert Green Ingersoll
False greatness is unsociable and remote: conscious of its own frailty, it hides, or at least averts its face, and reveals itself only enough to create an illusion and not be recognized as the meanness that it really is. True greatness is free, kind, familiar and popular; it lets itself be touched and handled, it loses nothing by being seen at close quarters; the better one knows it, the more one admires it.
--Jean de la Bruyere
In a lifetime of observing and participating in political debate, I have seen a lot of meanness.
Like the Earth, the Web is a less appealing place than it used to be. If I want attitude and arguing and meanness and profanity and wrong information screamed at me as gospel, I'll get in a time machine and spend Christmas with my family in 1977.
--J. R. Moehringer
Be nice to those you meet on the way up. They’re the same folks you’ll meet on the way down.