Here’s to being a decent human being

Aside from some serious electoral euphoria today, I’m gobsmacked at how rude some people on this planet can be.

So I’m spending my morning sending sincere emails thanking people who have been decent to me lately.

I recently made a few purchases from ebay, which I never do. But we’re going to see some snow this year and the kids needed suitable clothes. We live in a snow-free wonderland and I had no success at local used clothing stores.

So I turned to ebay.

Several great experiences. And one person who sent a horribly damaged item.

So I emailed and explained that I did not get an item in “perfect condition” as described. I wanted a refund or return. I sent photos of what the item looked like out of the package.

I got a scathing, hateful email back about how I was wrong.

Not sure what I was wrong about, I politely asked customer service to mediate.

I got another hateful email about how I’m a liar and how I ruined the item on purpose to get my money back.

I held my tongue. I used a larger monitor and saw that the original photo unsuccessfully disguised the damage. Within a few hours, ebay sided with me and refunded my money.

Stomach sour with being called a liar and a cheat, I emailed all the other sellers with whom I’ve had an easy and successful transaction. I thanked them for being decent human beings. I told them I appreciated them. I gave them good feedback.

And I am rather lost now, wondering what makes people hateful and mean. I wonder why, when told that something went wrong, the person in question didn’t say, “Weird. I could have sworn it was fine, but I’ll look into it.” This person didn’t do that. She leapt at me, clawing at my throat. For ten dollars.

Why all the hate? Where is the civility? The critical thinking?

I don’t understand some of the disgusting things said by people about the election. Whomever you voted for, there are ways to say you disagree or find someone dishonest without namecalling. Whatever you believe, there are ways to teach your kids your beliefs without demeaning other ideas. In fact, having strong opinions seems to be an ideal time to teach children. Someone cuts me off in traffic I talk to my kids about road rage and how dangerous it is. About choosing your battles. About being safe instead of being right.

I tell my children what other people believe about politics, religion, and childrearing. I explain why their opinions have merit. And I say that I disagree. Sure, I explain my side a lot more thoroughly. But I don’t call names or judge or teach hatred.

What’s up with the namecalling, America? Why can’t we believe different things without attacking?

If you are a decent person, thank you. Please endeavor to be decent to someone today. And teach your kids to do the same.

Because seriously? I’m increasingly shocked when someone is nice.

And that’s a gross way to live.

24 thoughts on “Here’s to being a decent human being

  1. Since reading Brene Brown’s book, I have worked harder at being pleasant and courteous and affable in public. It’s hard. I’m surly by default. But I really get why this is much better– being decent and kind. That ebay guy is messed up.

    • I’m an introverted curmudgeon, but I have a wicked streak of empathy in me. When someone is walking by, I smile. When a mom is having a hard time with her kids, I make eye contact and mentally say, “hang in there; we’re all in this together.”

      I’m overly nice while driving because I see my kids watching.

      But I get insanely mad about discourteous people. Blow past the stop sign where I’m waiting to cross? I will hunt you down. Grimace at me while my kid is having a tantrum? I will cut you.

        • There is a gorgeous passage in David Foster Wallace’s This Is Water (written as a commencement address) where he talks about the people driving to the market and in the market. How he works hard to think about why they’re so rude. What happened in their day? Are they scared about a diagnosis or a dying relative or a job hanging by a thread? Thinking about being kind to rude people because you never know how genuinely miserable their day, month, year has been. I really try that. Did that person frown at my laughing kid because he’s a jerk or because he was startled or because he lost a child or because his parents beat him for laughing.

          I still take rudeness personally. But I exhaust myself trying to love people out of it. It’s why my husband always wins the “You’re in a bad mood? I’m in a worse mood!” game because I want to comfort even when I’m livid.

  2. I am beyond exasperated by all the name-calling and immature behavior that I see around me – from adults. Why can’t we all just get along? There are merits to people having different opinions and ideas and we need to be able to voice them without being attacked. I wish people would truly listen and learn to empathize with others more. We have two ears and one mouth for a reason. (My apologies for my own little tirade there).

    I thank you for being a decent human being and for raising decent human beings as well. I am doing my best to raise my own decent human beings, too.

    Thankfully, the ebay thing worked out in your favor. I hope the snow you see this year is just enough to make it enjoyable and seem like a lovely winter element.

    • Thanks, Rita.

      I hope you know this is a safe place to rant about people being not nice. Expecting decency is a fine reason to get angry, and you’re welcome to do it here.

      Not just because I agree. Because you’re an articulate person who is willing to listen *and* speak.

      Thanks for being a decent human being.

  3. Why are people so mean? My theory in one word: anonymity. That seller could be that rude to you because she wasn’t looking into your face and seeing the effect her words had on you. Same with jerks at a store in a big city–they’ll never see you again. The Internet, for all its wonderfulness (and I do love the Internet) has increased our circle of contact while allowing all of us to remain relatively anonymous. And that’s not so good for good personal interaction sometimes.

    You want a place where you can’t be mean and live a normal life? Live somewhere where you can’t leave your house without running into someone you know( like, uh, here). You can’t talk smack about anyone in a small town, because chances are, the person you’re talking TO is related to or likes the person you’re talking ABOUT. You can’t be a jackass in a business, because you’ll have to go there again and again and see the same people over and over.

    Personal responsibility is a marvelous check on behavior.

    • Such a good point, Kristin. One of the things I don’t like about small towns is that you *do* know everyone or are one-degree of separation away from everyone. It makes everything, to me, feel like performance. But that’s because I have intense needs for privacy and introversion.

      The anonymity factor of the Internet is a significant reason it’s a breeding ground for hatred. Though most people are decent, throughout the world there are awful people. And online their reach is much further. Shielded by the cloak of anonymity, they magnify the awful parts of their personality because there is no shaming consequence.

      Thanks for the perspective. And the reminder of how small town residents are watched and known by almost everyone they see. You’re like celebrities in terms of having your every move scrutinized and observed. I hope your neighbors are kind and supportive!

  4. Oh my god yes.

    Where is all the hate from?

    I’m telling you, after I helped out at my kids’ school yesterday at a book fair, I had an inkling it would be bad. Post election day in a conservative small town AND YET the people I worked with shocked the heck out of me.

    One walked in, announcing first thing, “Well. Thanks a lot, America. That’s all I’m gonna say.”

    And then another walked in, “Whoever voted for Obama has got to have half a brain. Good thing we’ve got Costco b/c we’ll need to stock up on soup to stay out of his own soup lines.”

    Yeah and what?

    People. We are living in this country together. Why the hate, mean, condescending, arrogant, spiteful, exclusive way?

    Why live like that?

    Or am I just extra ordinary? How sad.


    • Of course you’re extraordinary. That is all day and every day.

      I’ll be honest: had the other side won, I would have been devastated. And scared for the country. But I would not walk around demeaning the people I think are completely wrong. I would not tell my kids we are living in a ruined country. I would not say voters have half a brain.

      I would figure out how to educate them *outside* of school. I would run for office.

      And I would be nice. Because I want, some day, to be surrounded by extraordinary.

  5. Disclaimer:No Internet (or power) so writing on my Phone.

    I am horrified by the comments on Facebook. In fact, if you had a page I would direct you to an exchange on my page the night of the election that led to an “unfriending”. Autocorrect doesn’t recognize that word and I applaud it for that. It’s ridiculous. But so were the sentiments of the human being being unfriended. The fact that the election turned out the way it did shows that we have a sliver of an edge over asshatary? (your word so don’t know how it’s spelled.). Sitting in the cold and dark drinking wine. Does it matter how anything is spelled?

  6. The fact that you would spend post hurricane, post Nor’easter drinking time on human decency means you’re a darned decent person. Thank you for unfriending hate. You don’t need anger in your life. Disappointment, frustration, shock are apt. Hate? Stop.

    Asshattery, for future reference.

  7. So many things in here I agree with I’m almost giddy. Hate that hate. I don’t know which is more unsettling – the type of interaction you had with a hateful stranger, or seeing hate spewed by people you actually know on Facebook and are horrified to discover they feel that way. And the fact that all of these haters are breeding mini haters. ugh

    It’s hard to stay optimistic sometimes. AND YET for me, the election actually ignited a new wave of optimism and hope about people. Bright side?

    • Yes, bright side. Maybe?

      But that eBay woman…what if she believes in hope and change but is *still* a horrible person? What if the Facebook people are just a small minority of the seemingly monolithic “other side.” What if we can’t stereotype each other and have to ferret out the nasty by painful experience?


      Gotta go be decent to more people. See if I can change the world with goodness.

  8. I can’t agree with you more. It is shocking how hateful people can be and for no good reason at all. And this election? I had to cut myself off from FB the past few weeks. I couldn’t even stand to read the hateful comments written by people on both sides.

    There’s a beautiful quote by Abdu’l Baha that I find myself going back to in these situations.

    “I charge you all that each one of you concentrate all the thoughts of your heart on love and unity. When a thought of war comes, oppose it by a stronger thought of peace. A thought of hatred must be destroyed by a more powerful thought of love. Thoughts of war bring destruction to all harmony, well-being, restfulness and content.

    Thoughts of love are constructive of brotherhood, peace, friendship, and happiness…If you desire with all your heart, friendship with every race on earth, your thought, spiritual and positive, will spread; it will become the desire of others, growing stronger and stronger, until it reaches the minds of all men.

    Do not despair! Work steadily. Sincerity and love will conquer hate…Let your hearts be filled with the strenuous desire that tranquillity and harmony may encircle all this warring world.”

    –Baha’i: Abdu’l-Baha: Paris Talks, Written in 1912 (pp 29-30)

    • There are two approaches here I like: remove yourself from hateful atmospheres (e.g, facebook) and counter the hate with love.

      Some days I only have energy for the former, but that allows it to fester.

      Doubling down on peace sounds much better.

  9. Yes, Absolutely. In fact, that was part of what fueled my most recent post, after I read several rants about how America was now going directly to hell and saying flat out nasty things about the President. What’s wrong with decency and civility? It always serves you better than rudeness and anger.

    • I get that we are at a point where the other side (regardless of which side you’re on) has been so demonized that we would think the country is going to hello if the other side wins. I was distraught, horrified, and disgusted when Bush won a second term. Mad at half the voters, thinking half the country is stupid. Sure the election was stolen. My anguish was private and I would never have spewed my assumptions and disgust on people.

      I might have posted something on social media about being “so sad” or “confused and horrified.” Seems like respectful sour grapes, which I think people whose values were voted down are entitled to.

    • We have to, right? If I stew about that creep for even five minutes, it’s my life force I’m giving away. She doesn’t care. And if I teach my kids to shake off the shake-off-able, so much better for the world.

      Maybe my feelings aren’t more hurt because I’m not a cheat. And I’m not a liar. So it didn’t resonate. Maybe I’m just used to decent people.

      Either way, I kept all her emails and will make sure her contact info is at the ready for the police if she gets stalker-ish.

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