Is It OK To Be Rude?

There's been a rash of rudeness going around lately among public figures. But rudeness does not limit itself to narcisstic celebrities and arrogant politicians. In our personal lives, we all know people who act rude...some more so than others. Perhaps we ourselves have occasionally been impolite, offensive or unintentionally slighted someone. What amazes me are people who feel entitled, even obligated to be rude, crude, in-your-face, mean and nasty; not just to strangers but to of all people---their friends and family members...all in the name of love. As in: "I'm only telling you this for your own good and because I care about you and love you that you're a stupid, selfish witch, your kids are spoiled brats and your husband's an imbecile." This is their misguided version of love.

On the pretext of truth or self-righteous indignation, some people are compelled to be the bearer of brutal, harsh and cruel words. It's almost like they feel it's their duty---their god-given right, to be the messenger of mean, to call a spade a spade, to drive a stake in someone's matter what the consequences. No matter who they hurt or how terrible the emotional pain they inflict. Honesty isn't always the best policy. Some people use honesty as an excuse to be mean. They take pride in it. They get some kind of perverse delight out of being hurtfully critical to others. I've heard people brag about how painfully honest they were to someone else's detriment. Inevitably, they justify their callous behavior on their screwed up belief that it's perfectly alright to speak spiteful words because they do it with: good intentions. They only want to help. Then with a phony injured expression, they'll innocently add: "It hurts me to say this, but somebody's got to tell you and it might as well be me." Isn't there an old saying about how good intentions pave the way to hell?

We live in a self-centered and egregiously self-absorbed society. The internet, social networks, instant communications and talk TV bring out the best and the worst in people all over the world. I'm reminded of a recent John McEnroe commercial I saw the other day. McEnroe used to be a famous tennis champ who earned a reputation for being exceptionally rude, obnoxious and unsportsmanlike during his tennis matches. Yet even today, over 30 years later, he's still making money from ads based on his rudeness. Then there's the outrageous name calling and vicious personal attacks by TV and radio commentators. They earn huge ratings and big bucks for their boorish, brutish and repulsive behavior.

Nobody's perfect and I admit that I myself have been less than gracious upon occasion. I get my hackles up when I'm provoked. Over the years, I've learned not to initiate confrontations. It's just not worth the aggravation. I keep my distance from people who annoy me. Several years ago, I was embroiled in a distinctly unpleasant situation. It caused me to reflect on the way I look at life and challenged me to change the way I treat people. First off, I decided that I would no longer tolerate or be around people who are selfish, unkind and matter who they are. That sounds like a no-brainer. But it's amazing how much time and energy we expend dealing with negative, insensitive, arrogant jerks who think the world owes them homage.

Life is too short to be in the company of assholes. I'd rather enjoy happy, positive, caring relationships. I try not to judge people immediately but instead give the benefit of the doubt. That happens to be an elephantine task for me. But after years of practice, I've learned that when I am patient and avoid jumping to conclusions about someone, often I come to understand that person better. Sometimes you just have to accept people as they are because they are not going to change. Accept them or stay away from people who make you miserable. I've make a conscious effort to be kinder to people. I don't always succeed. And heaven knows, I ain't no saint. But I discovered a great little secret to being kind. It's all about the small details and remembering that what you say has consequences. Treating people in a kindly, respectful manner involves listening more and talking a whole lot less. Refrain from blabbing on about yourself and you'll learn a lot about others. How they feel. What they need. Problems they're facing. Happy or sad situations. It's amazing how quickly someone will tell you their story. Kindness can be as easy as listening to someone share an experience and not interrupt. Kindness can be as simple as sending someone a cheery card and writing a personal, meaningful note inside. Kindness is showing an interest in someone by inquiring about their family, their job, their health. Kindness is paying someone an unexpected compliment. Kindness is not being mean. Kindness is showing compassion and sensitivity. Kind words cost nothing but their effectiveness can be inmeasureable. Rudeness can take a costly, unforgiving toll. In the words of Mother Teresa: Kind words can be short and easy to speak but their echoes are truly endless.

It's time we stopped tolerating rudeness as acceptable behavior. It's not OK. It's time we took responsibility for our own decency. Kindness will not end wars, achieve lasting world peace or turn terrorists into sweet, lovable lads. But it may be a small step to understanding those around us. When we take time to be considerate to someone or perform a random act of kindness, we not only boost another person's self-worth but we engender an inner happiness and peace within ourselves. And isn't that what we're all searching for?


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