Why Are You So F#%king Mean?!?

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Maybe it’s because I said something you didn’t want to hear. Or wrote something you didn’t want to read. Maybe it’s because my beliefs are different than yours. Or I have opposing values. Maybe it’s as simple as how I look. Or the way I talk.

Or maybe it’s not me.

Maybe you misinterpreted what I said. Or read it differently than what I meant. Maybe you were having a bad day. Or that’s just how you were brought up. Maybe you have been holding onto to something painful for years. Or you thought you were being funny.

Maybe.

Or maybe we’re just different. And maybe that’s enough of a reason.

Maybe it doesn’t really matter why anymore. Maybe one of us needs to be the better person and stop.

Where it All Begins

When you drop a rock into a pond, it doesn’t end when the rock hits the water. There is a ripple effect. It may appear small from our perspective above the water. But it is life changing for many below the surface.

For every story on the news that ends badly there is a beginning. A way way back. A moment. A point that started with someone being mean. A parent or friend. A member of the family. A complete stranger or a schoolmate. Something happened. Something was said. Something was done. It may have seemed innocent at the time. But it wasn’t. Not to them anyway. Something was born.

An opinion on how the world is. Or a viewpoint of what people are like. An image of who they are and what their self-worth is. A story.

The feelings that grow from these moments such as hatred, intolerance and racism are learned behaviors. You are not born with these feelings. There are no racist babies crawling around. Someone planted these seeds. And you can’t plant apple seeds and then curse the tree for bearing apples. We need to take responsibility for what we have created and the results of our handy work. No more finger pointing.

It’s Our Fault

It’s our fault for making it OK to poke fun at a 16 year old girls hair instead of celebrating her accomplishment of being the best in the world.

It’s our fault for showing up to a Chick-Fil-A in protest instead of showing up to a movie theater in support.

It’s our fault for not being better role models as politicians, business owners, religious leaders, parents and adults.

Yes. We made our bed. But that doesn’t mean we have to lie in it. We have choices. We can change the way the story ends at any time.

Let the Worst in Others Bring Out the Best in You

My story begins in 3rd grade. I was 8 years old. It was the first day in a new school for me. Miss popularity walked up to me and introduced herself by saying “Hi! You’re pretty…pretty ugly!” It was mean. But completely innocent. It was a kid being a kid. To her anyway. Not to me. That tiny little comment was a seed that I cultivated well into my adult life.

It has shown up in my decisions. It has shown up in my writing. It has shown up in the conversations with others. It has shown up in my relationships. It has changed the course of my life.

It made me insecure. Afraid of rejection. Introverted. And because of that, I didn’t have many friends. I very rarely took any social risks.

Sounds ridiculous doesn’t it? It is. Just not to an 8 year old kid. That was my beginning. I’m sure you have a similar story.

When Does it End?

It doesn’t. These seeds will never stop being planted in our yards. Get used to that fact. But we do have the ability to choose what to do with them. We can choose whether or not we want to add the fertilizer, water and sunshine. We can choose whether we allow these seeds to grow or die.

The obvious answer is to let them die. I’ve chosen to let them grow. But on my terms.

Letting Them Grow

Within the past 24 hours I have been called a pretentious douche. I was told that my picture made someone throw up in their mouth. That I was incompetent. And use deplorable sentence fragments (OK, this one is probably true). I am offensive. That I am a whiner. Not original. Useless. That I am a self-important blowhard. Thoughtless. Cynically pedantic (I had to look that one up too). And that I sound like a bratty 16 year old.

This is the result of me writing something. A guest blog post. It was funny. A majority of the people that read it thought so anyway. A bunch didn’t. I get that not everyone is going to love everything I write. Some of you are rolling your eyes at this post right now. But it was the last thing I would have ever thought would spark such a hateful reaction from some. But it did.

Now I have a few choices:

  1. Respond by lashing out
  2. Project that anger onto the next person I see
  3. Ignore them or remove their comments
  4. Embrace them

Had you asked me ten years ago, I would have responded by lashing out at that person. Throwing bigger punches. Drawing more proverbial blood.

Five years ago I would have internalized it. Held it in. Saved it for the right moment. A fight with my wife. The next time I got cut off while driving. A client that said something I didn’t want to hear. And then I would blow up on my unsuspecting victim.

One year ago I would have just ignored them. Acted as though they were not worth my time. Probably even deleted their comments.

But today, at this point in my life, I have chosen to embrace these comments. Cultivate them. But into what I want. Leverage them to make me a better writer. Give me thicker skin. Make me a stronger person. More understanding. Sympathetic. Challenge me to turn them around. Help me be a positive role model for my children.

Embrace Them

I know it’s hard to do sometimes. When someone points to you and says that you make them throw up in their mouth, my 8 year old self wants to take it personally and run. But that doesn’t help the greater good. Neither does lashing out. Feeding those demons. Giving them the response that they are expecting. That they want. A reward for spewing their hate.

Instead, I choose to embrace these comments. Welcome the challenge. And change the world. Maybe.

  • http://twitter.com/katelin_tiernan Katelin Tiernan

    Man, kids can be mean! And adults! People in general really…

    Another great post! Yes, we all have the moments in our life that haunt us forever, even though they are quite insignificant in the grand scheme of things. Knowing the event that causes you to act a certain way (insecure, introvert, etc.) doesn’t make it easier to stop doing that. Congrats to you for embracing them. Not sure I can do that just yet.

    P.S. I thought your other post was funny as well. I especially like the unicorn bit. :)

    • http://www.marcensign.com/blog Marc Ensign

      Kids are mean because they learn it from adults…through their parents, TV, cartoons, movies, etc. It then just becomes part of the normal way of life and the cycle continues.

      I see it with my daughter and her friends. She’s 8. The same age I was. Only I am trying to teach her a different way by my example. It’s simple but not very easy.

      And yes, you can do that…you just need to decide!

  • http://twitter.com/bennettdoneit Heather Bennett

    I really love how you break down your own journey of responses through the years and where you are now. Very transparent and right on! The only person you can be is Mark, right? Keep it up!

    • http://www.marcensign.com/blog Marc Ensign

      Thank you Heather! I appreciate the comment. Love that you connected with that part. I make a pretty crummy Mark. But an excellent Marc! Don’t worry…I get it all the time :)

  • http://twitter.com/mightyrenegade themightyrenegade

    Brilliant article and great guest post. Having been in the ‘business’ world for most of my life, I could add about fifty more phrases to your list (“…at the end of the day…”, “…that being said…”, and all of the sports colloquialisms – “…this project is a lay-up…”, “That was a home-run.” and on and on). I can’t believe someone would send negative feedback on an article that was so true. Ridiculous. I’ll lash out for you if you’d like. But you’re right. Embrace the negative. I also like the Augusten Burroughs approach. Simply disregard what anyone else thinks and you’re likely to stay most connected to your true self. Love your stuff Marc.

    Your Friend,
    Brian (aka The Mighty Renegade)

    • http://www.marcensign.com/blog Marc Ensign

      Thanks Brian! Always love your comments! I’ve gotten so many suggestions on that post I almost feel obligated to do a part 2!!!

  • http://twitter.com/Tunnelbreeze Simon Thompson

    Well done Marc. Do you walk in my footsteps? Do you read my mind? So often your thoughts are reflections of my own. A great piece! As meaningful as ever. Many thanks.

    • http://www.marcensign.com/blog Marc Ensign

      Wow Simon! What great feedback. Thank you! It’s nice to hear that you aren’t the only one thinking something. It’s good to not be alone. Plus you’re great company!

  • http://pegfitzpatrick.com/ Peg Fitzpatrick

    I really wonder why people are so mean. Really and truly.

    I thought thought your post, the original one that was the impetus of the mean comments, was excellently written. Sarcasm is very hard to do properly and I think that you nailed it.

    Being personally insulting and calling names is immature behavior by any standards. I think you handled the storm very well. And as they say, better to get people to respond emotionally than have people bored by your content. You inspired people to think and to comment.
    I say, great job!

    • http://www.marcensign.com/blog Marc Ensign

      Yeah! Peggy’s back! I couldn’t agree more!!!! It WAS excellently written! :)

      Like anything else, sarcasm takes practice. Just ask my wife. She is the recipient of that practice and deserves as much credit for me being a self-important blowhard as anybody!

      As for the negative comments. In a strange way, I actually liked it. I turned a few around. Some didn’t respond. And others I had an intelligent conversation with. I’ll take ticking a bunch of people off if I can get lot’s to at least think over boring people to tears any day!

      Thanks to you and Paul for giving me such a fun outlet to write in!

      • http://pegfitzpatrick.com/ Peg Fitzpatrick

        We are happy to have you on 12 Most. You are quite a handful.
        I want xoxo on my responses too. Geez!

        • http://www.marcensign.com/blog Marc Ensign

          If you think I’m a handful now, wait until we meet in person! That’s all I’m saying. xoxo

          • http://pegfitzpatrick.com/ Peg Fitzpatrick

            It shall be fabulous! xoxo

  • http://twitter.com/CynthiaSchames Cynthia Schames

    I love this. WAY TO GO.

    • http://www.marcensign.com/blog Marc Ensign

      Thank you so much Cynthia! These kinds of comments mean the world to me! You have no idea :)

  • Marc Zazeela

    Super story, Marc. Sad but true that so many of society’s leaders set such a bad example for civility and respect for others.

    My favorite book, How To Win Friends and Influence People, changed my life. Dale Carnegie teaches tolerance and understanding, regardless the circumstance. In my opinion, he is so right.

    Let the naysayers be naysayers. I will ignore them and go merrily on my way. I am sure that for every critic there are 10 fans and they are the ones that count. Everyone has an opinion and the only ones that matter are ones that come from the people you love and respect.

    Cheers,
    Marc

    • http://www.marcensign.com/blog Marc Ensign

      Thank you Marc! And good to see you spelled your name right :)

      I read that book a long time ago. Maybe 10 years ago. I’m in such a different place now versus then that I may just have to dig it out and reread it!

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

      • Marc Zazeela

        Marc,

        I have read HTWFAIP about 5 times. I always find something new each time I read it.

        I especially like Dale’s publishing the poem “Father Forgets”. I found it truly inspirational.

        Cheers,
        Marc

  • http://www.websitebegin.com Joe Boyle

    Marc, I didn’t get a chance to read the comments on that post yesterday, but I did today. I thought the article was great. *Pats Marc on the back*

    I personally favour the embrace method. I’ve always been one to just go with whatever happens. Accept it. Build upon it. Cultivate it. Love it. Adore it. Learn from it. Benefit from it.

    There’s no real use in crying over spilt milk (unless you really wanted that milk. In which case, I understand the tears). Use it to learn not to knock over the milk next time!

    I remember when my cat used to like to sit on the stove. We always squirted her with water and told her “NO!”. She eventually got burned when jumping on it while hot. Needless to say, it got through.

    Negativity is positivity through a negative mindset, Marc. Great post. Was worth the wait :)

    • http://www.marcensign.com/blog Marc Ensign

      Thanks Joe!See? I told you it would be worth the wait! For the record, I was bluffing. I had no idea how it was going to turn out or be accepted :)

      I like this a lot:
      “Accept it. Build upon it. Cultivate it. Love it. Adore it. Learn from it. Benefit from it.”

      Nicely put!

  • http://twitter.com/DabneyPorte Dabney Porte

    Wonderful Read Marc! xo

    • http://www.marcensign.com/blog Marc Ensign

      Thank you Dabney!!!

    • http://www.marcensign.com/blog Marc Ensign

      How rude of me! I should have xo’d you back! Sorry about that! xo

  • AnitaHovey

    WOW. Great post. I’ve been where you’ve been…it’s hard to overcome all that crap from elementary, isn’t it? Hard to believe as an adult we’re still affected by it. Great response.

    • http://www.marcensign.com/blog Marc Ensign

      Hi Anita! Thanks for the comment AND Tweet! Awesome! It’s crazy to think how such a stupid comment like that has affected my life, but it’s no different than the rest of you guys. We even do it as adults! Someone says or does stuff and we create a story about what we think that really means. Haven’t you ever been somewhere and thought someone like a waitress looks at you funny so you immediately start thinking they hate you…or am I the only one that does that?

  • Xmuver

    Wow…in 24 hours? I need to start stepping it up, throwing myself out there more…an ass kicking barrage of that magnitude would rock my world…guess it’s time to take better care of my inner 8 year old. So, how can this be great for me….workin’ it :)

    • http://www.marcensign.com/blog Marc Ensign

      It’s pretty hit or miss. I’ve written what I thought was great stuff only to have it fall flat. Just keep at it. Write the best stuff you have ion you and have a little faith that it’s going to grab someone’s attention!

  • http://www.redesign2.com/blog.html Paul Biedermann

    Embrace your comments! Be at one with your post! And when all else fails, smack ’em down a little. With words, of course :-)

    Tough week. Great posts!

    • http://www.marcensign.com/blog Marc Ensign

      Thanks Paul! It’s all part of the experience (life, that is). Thanks again for the opportunity to write for you guys! It has been fun!

  • http://www.facebook.com/mdrody Matt Rody

    Toughest thing to catch in the middle of someone hating on you for no reason!! The angry retort is what usually happens. Good reminder!!

    • http://www.marcensign.com/blog Marc Ensign

      They have a reason…you just need to realize that it’s their reason. Not yours. When someone lights a bag of poop on your front porch, you don’t have to jump on it. I think it was Confucious that said that. :)

  • Terez Williamson

    Bravo Marc! This post has made my day. People often ask themselves “How can I change the world?” “How can I leave my mark?” My answer to them (and myself ) is to try to be more kind. How much would all of our relationships improve if we would make this one goal a priority?

    • http://www.marcensign.com/blog Marc Ensign

      Thanks Terez! This comment has made my day! Not everyone is going to make kindness a priority, so how do you personally handle it (honestly) when you come across someone that is either nasty or borderline abusive to you? Are you still kind? Be honest.

  • Jennifer Spencer

    Thank you!

    • http://www.marcensign.com/blog Marc Ensign

      Your welcome!

  • http://bentrem.sycks.net bentrem


    It was mean. But completely innocent. It was a kid being a kid.”
    I really got into thinking about this stuff in grade 7. The “why are people mean?” thing I eventually worked out, more/less, somewhat. But the “why do we indulge people’s mean behavior” thing … that’s the root of my interest in how politics play out, in the work place and on the national and international stage.

    I’ve even got my arms around what psychopathy is and how it works. But I //don’t// get how folk play along.

    For me this stuff is … well … it affects the very base of our communities, our families, everything we think of as social.

    greets!
    –@bentrem:disqus

    • http://www.marcensign.com/blog Marc Ensign

      It’s definitely engrained in our society. Just look to the presidential campaign going on right now. Our leaders. Our societies parents. Our examples of who we should be. Spending more time cutting each other down as opposed to building themselves up. The media is of no help either. How are our children not supposed to go to school without bullying each other when the adults around them can’t.

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  • http://twitter.com/Ms_MelissaNg Melissa Ng

    Wonderful read. It really hit home for me. Do not feed the trolls!

    I know this was written 2 months ago but this would be a great article to RT since October is National Anti-bullying Month. :D

    • http://www.marcensign.com/blog Marc Ensign

      Thank you for bringing up the fact that it is National Anti-Bullying month. I posted it a few times to get the message out there for those dealing with bully’s and what not.

      As far as the trolls go, they are harmless. I love trolls. If you read through the comments on the post I mentioned above you will see that I have a lot of fun with trolls :)

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