Month: September 2007

Cruelty is not an Art

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Bad experiences are character building. Think positive. What comes around goes around. Live and learn. It’s not what other people do to you, it’s how you choose to feel about it. Buck up, be strong. Count your blessings.

Forget it all. From the time-worn cliches meant to vindicate the worst human behavior, to those narcissistic people who practice cruelty as if the torment of others were an art.

There is no art to callous disregard, misuse of power, broken promises, or malevolent intent. There is no spirituality behind hatred, and no great wisdom behind contempt. There are no sterling life lessons to be found in the cold chill of another’s arrogant indifference or in the bitter sting of betrayal.

We reach for reason and believe that by superimposing logic on the senseless acts of others we will find cause – some justification, no matter how hazy or untenable – for even the most hurtful words or actions.

As we have been taught in times of crises, we count our blessings, as if each good experience we’ve had or each decent person we know should be an effective counterweight to a totally unrelated source of pain. As if love or abundance in one area can or should make up for hatred or insufficiency in another. Of course, they don’t. Love does not make hatred better or more acceptable. Kindness from one, or even many, cannot take away or “make up for” even a single act of cruelty much less several.

The values of love and kindness and all good experiences are not that they are equalizers to negligence, evil or viciousness. Instead, they represent the best traits of humanity – they are spiritual and ethical ideals put into action, and quite separate from the antithetical other-world where people set about to intentionally inflict harm or cause destruction.

In some thwarted fashion though, we attempt to stretch the boundaries of humanitarian ideals to hold, if not occasionally embrace, that which is contrary. We subscribe to ridiculous cliches like “if not for the bad, we would not recognize the good” or “don’t look at this (whatever thing) as bad, but as an opportunity to grow.” As if people who had experienced only love and compassion would somehow be flawed or stunted as human beings, or as if there were no real – and even superior – opportunities given by caring circumstances to “grow”.

Failing to find reason or excuse for the cruelty or bad acts of others does not indicate a failure of our own spirit. We are not made less loving as individuals when we decline to embrace those who would intentionally do us or others harm. We are not made less caring when we choose not to create excuses for uncaring people. We are not made self-centered when we reject the narcissism of others.

The guilt that is often foisted upon “idealists” (or sensitive or spiritual people) is steeped in animosity. Skeptics would have us “prove” our compassion by extending it to those least worthy of it. They would bait us to show our kindness to others by turning the proverbial other cheek to any indignity and bit of ugliness hurled at us.

Rising to the bait causes our antagonists to gleefully point to us as hypocrites; yet a turned cheek leads to charges of blindness or weakness. The goodness we strive for is mocked; ridiculed as impotent or ineffective.

To stand up against cruelty – to name it for the senseless, narcissistic thing it is – and to refuse to deconstruct our ideals to accommodate the notion that bad acts have value is an act of bravery. To say that we view the intentional scarring of ourselves and others not as a “life lesson” or “opportunity to grow”, but as an unnecessary and destructive source of pain, is to buck the tide that exploits goodness on every level. To understand that innocence should not be a cause of shame but a reason to rejoice is not blind idealism but rather the knowledge that one does not– and should not – have to suffer in order to be a whole or “better” person.

I would urge the idealists left in this world to stand up. Be brave and bold in your goodness, and step away from those who would challenge it for the sake of sport. Defend whatever innocence you have left, and value the innocence of others. Put no shelter in your heart for those who would not respect your spirit.

Be brave, and rid yourself of the cliches, creeds, and habits that create excuses for the cruel acts of others and challenge you to take them as your due. You were not born to be either a victim or a perpetrator, but to reach your highest potential, and to share the best that is within you with the rest of the world.

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