One of the most unbecoming characteristics of being human is the selfish act of cruelty. We’ve all experienced its raging, pathogenic, manipulative spirit. Sometimes it collides with us when we meet our biggest frustrations and disappointments. Other times it hits us in moments of weakness and vulnerability. But the most dangerous times cruelty sinks its teeth into our neck, stifling our voice is when we are thriving in our most joyful, happy places.
Today, I’ve decided to share a personal story of shame, guilt and cruelty of the worse kind. During an already vulnerable time, defenses down and stakes high, I was told there had been a robbery due to my negligence. Apologetic, in tears, knees weakened, and already in a state of heightened emotions I was devastated. I was without a resolution or the means to flip the course into reverse gear. No, I had blown it and this person wanted to make sure I knew it. That’s when the cut of cruelty hit full effect. I was then told nothing was stolen, everything was fine. They had invented a story in order to teach me what they considered a lesson in responsibility. I felt like a mouse scrambling for escape from the cat’s claws digging into my tail. I was hurt, seeking retaliation, arming to take on a battle of words, ready to strike a blow with Maleficent’s scepter then it all went away. I chose that the entire situation was simply not worthy of my time and energy. I let it go in spite of being left with a lifelong emotional scar.
I’ve thought about this experience for a couple days now. And although I’ve been abundantly grateful for the patience, help and love this person has extended over the years. I also could not let go of the feelings of being toyed with…in an effort to cast shame upon me. As an educator and mentor this simply isn’t the loving way to teach. I’ve experienced instructors who teach through intimidation and fear. I’ve seen students hone their talent to an art. I‘ve also seen even more who possessed the talent, but lost the will to fight the cruelty befallen on them. This isn’t how to teach, lead and inspire.
I learned a lot about the person in my story. I also learned where to put my energy and heart. In the end this lesson, could be one of the most profound in my life. I learned how to stop the infectious spread and reciprocation of cruelty. I also learned the true nature of someone I trusted. As Brené says “Be hurt. Cry. Tell about it. Let it go. Don’t respond.” Brené calls this “shame resilience” and I’ve become its Jedi Master. I’ve held both gratitude and hurt, then let them both go. The conversation has stopped and I’ve moved on.
In Brené Brown’s book The Gifts of Imperfection she says “Cruelty is never brave.” And if we are to live the courageous, and brave life this too must be released. Instead of infecting our shame or hurt with cruelty, if we enlist our self respect, shed reactivity and one-up-manship, we stop a vicious cycle of pain. This takes courage and vulnerability, characteristics in which “Cruelty” simply doesn’t know how to battle.
I share this personal story because I consider this space to be connected with souls who share similar beliefs as mine. Our stories aren’t meant for all to hear. Yet on some level I have connected with you and therefore I feel privileged to share even the painful life lessons. For those who don’t relate to this story or my example of how to stop the infectious spread of cruelty, I hold no judgement. You’ll find another trusted friend or community to share your deepest vulnerabilities. And I highly recommend reading Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning to get you on the path to discovering them.