When I was a kid, I had sticker affixed to my notebook that said, “Mean people suck”.
My mom made me remove it because she thought the word “suck” was distasteful. I now see her point. There are many more ways to articulate displeasure for something without using an undesirable word; so to satisfy mom’s disdain, I shall rephrase.
When I was in my twenties, I had a list of character traits that I looked for in the people with whom I wanted to surround myself. They encompassed virtues like ambitious, funny, and wicked smart. Kindness didn’t make the cut on my original list but twentyish years later, it sits as my highest virtue of all.
Now that I’ve had a chance to witness humanity through my experiences as a parent, police officer and especially in my role as a follower to many different leaders, I recognize how imperative it is to be kind those people with whom I come in contact. These days, I couldn’t care less how smart you are if you aren’t kind to the people around you.
This lesson unfolded over my years as a police officer when I started to understand that the kinder I was to people – even when I was arresting them or writing them a ticket – the more cooperative they were with me. The more I treated people with dignity and respect (even those whose actions might arguably not deserve respect), the more respectful they were in return.
I have worked for 23 years in a police department with a militaristic hierarchy of chain of command which means that I have worked under many different sergeants, lieutenants, commanders, and chiefs. Unfortunately, from many I have learned how not to act. I actually conducted my own personal experiment to see if I could get certain bosses who were known for their rugged dispositions to respond to my feeble attempt at interaction. It became a game and fortunate to my own emotional livelihood, I grew from being disgusted to mildly amused by the results.
I remember how it felt when I walked into my lieutenant’s office as a sergeant to ask a question only to have a conversation with the back of his head because he didn’t turn around in his chair to look at me.
Humans are simple creatures. We want to be recognized by other humans four our worth and our contribution. Those who disagree might say that it’s weak and vulnerable to want validation. My retort would be that you aren’t quite courageous enough to grapple with vulnerability. Vulnerability is only for the strong.
I spoke with some police officers on the scene of the horrific crash where they witnessed the death of a tollway worker and a fellow police officer who was critically injured. They were upset because they felt that management had not been sensitive to what they encountered and instead, focused on policy violations.
These weren’t weak and sensitive police officers. They were both strong in body and mind. And they just wanted us to check in with them and ask how they were doing. There’s always a need to evaluate incidents and asses the things that may have gone wrong so we can prevent them from occurring in the future. However, we must first ensure that those who are risking their lives to save others are being taken care of as well.
It’s pretty simple when you break it down. People are comprised of many layers. When you get down to the very core, we all just want to matter.
It doesn’t take much energy to treat others with kindness at every opportunity. The reward for doing so might seem insignificant in the moment but the consequences of not being kind are far greater.
Mean people suck. Sorry mom.