A student stormed into class this week, his own personal hurricane.
“You okay?” I asked.
He shook his head, his eyes filled with a mixture of hurt and anger. “These kids said I looked like a 3rdgrader. They were making fun of my height.”
Despite our masks, I could hear a snort-like laugh emerge from a girl in our classroom.
Ah, middle school: the realm where cruelty is often the dish du jour. And at that moment, the girl’s laugh caused the boy’s eyes to tear up.
“You want to know a secret?” I asked. The room fell silent. “When someone is mean, it’s about them. They aren’t happy with themselves.”
The girl who had, just seconds before, snorted a laugh said, “I like making fun of people.”
“Maybe it makes you feel good for a little while, but it doesn’t make you feel so good in the long run. Besides, if you were happy, really happy with yourself, you wouldn’t feel a need to make someone else feel bad.”
The girl nodded slowly. While the mask made it hard to “read” her face, my gut says she “got” the lesson.
Despite most of our readers experiencing life post 6th grade, the Middle School Mentality persists: the colleague who passive-aggressively puts you down at a meeting, the ex who continues to threaten court, the driver who tailgates.
The pandemic has caused an incomprehensible domino effect of loss and change around the world; it is not, however, an excuse to be cruel to others, ever.
If you are choosing to read my work, chances are you can relate more to the boy in my classroom than the snort-laughing girl. You are kind, compassionate and proactively trying to live your best life.
We are spiritual Russian dolls in this life, living with the layers of who we were at each stage and carrying those perceptions with us along the way. We are the 6th grade boy, horrified and angry by other kids’ cruel words; we may also be the girl who laughs at the pain of others because deep down, we aren’t happy with ourselves.
So, the next time someone snaps at you or cuts you off in traffic, consider the “Happiness Test.” When someone is acting out in an aggressive or cruel way, it’s a reflection of THEM, not YOU. The aggressor or bully isn’t happy with themselves.
The good news? You don’t have to join them.