Do whatever it takes to make your life more worth living. Anything at all. It can be illegal, immoral, unethical, self-destructive… anything at all if it makes your life more worth living. There’s only one rule to follow to make that kind of blanket permission work: Don’t be mean.
I’ve been telling people that for 4-5 years now, first in my book Hello, Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks, and Other Outlaws—and more recently in my post for Dan Savage’s YouTube project, It Gets Better.
Since posting it up on YouTube, I’ve received a great deal more feedback. It’s the nature of the medium. Most people don’t write back to books. But they do write back to blogs, vlogs and tweets. Many of the responses to my It Gets Better vlog have been along the lines of thank you very much, and to that I’ve been saying you’re very welcome. But there have been many questions about this notion of Don’t be mean, and that’s what I’d like to address here.
What can you do when you are mean?
As much sense as it makes to embrace the value of don’t be mean, the bottom line is we’re going to be mean to people.
We’re human. We have tempers. We have buttons that other people push. We have off days when we’re cranky and prickly. Sometimes, we have to deal with people we don’t like, or people who’ve been mean to us… and sometimes we act or respond meanly ourselves.
All of us—even though we know better—we’re mean. And when that happens, the very best we can do is take these 3 steps:
1) We forgive ourselves, cuz we're just plain human.
2) We apologize and/or make amends if we possibly can.
3) We try to do better the next time.
By doing those three steps—over and over, every time we’re mean—we learn how to not be mean. And we’ll go for a longer stretch time before the next time we are mean. And we will be mean again, whether it’s intentional or not. The deal is we try not to be mean. Good intentions count for a lot.
That old saying “the road to hell is paved with good intentions” is bull poop. The more good intentions we embrace, the closer we get to heaven. Never mind the inevitability of being mean later on down the road—once we’ve intended to not be mean, we get better at it. Embracing the intention to not be mean is in and of itself an act of self-betterment.
Can you be mean to yourself?
Folks have asked if being mean to yourself counts as "being mean."
Nope. You can be as mean to yourself as you need or want to be. Most of us are, anyway. I’m meaner to myself than anyone has ever been mean to me.
Sometimes being mean to myself is the only thing that allows me to go on living for another couple of hours, or day or weeks. I beat up on myself. I cut. I starve myself. I self-medicate with little thought to the consequences. Those are all ways of being mean to myself, and I do them more then I’d like to. But, by trying to not be mean to other folks, I’ve slowly been learning how not to be mean to myself.
What if just being who you are is hurtful to someone else?
I’ve heard this one far too frequently: “If I come out as (fill in the blank), it will really hurt my (parents, friends, siblings, team, etc.).
Sometimes the very action or identity that can make our lives more worth living can seem hurtful to someone else. THAT’S NOT YOU BEING MEAN.
It is NEVER mean to follow the kind joy that lives in your heart. NEVER. If someone can’t handle the fact that you’re quirky by their standards, it’s on them.
And lastly, this question has come up more and more:
What if God just plain loves you… so you're not going to Hell?
Then you are a very lovely and lucky person indeed, and your God is super!
You can keep your Get Out of Hell Free card around for laughs.
Hope this helps.
Love & respect,