“I think people are most themselves when they are pushed. It’s easy to be a decent human being when things are going your way. But what happens when it’s not. That’s when we see true character come out.”  – Louise Penny

A few weeks ago my boyfriend and I were talking about politeness.  I told him the story of a woman I knew, from the South, who was polite and smiled at everyone.  She later told me that she didn’t really like one or two of them.  At first I thought this was disingenuous.  But as I watched her interact with these people, I realized that she wasn’t misleading them with ill intent.  She just realized that meanness or rudeness was both pointless and fruitless so she was choosing politeness.

Often I think we jump to the quick “clap back”.  Social media rewards such posts with likes and other equally “pity” comments.  We crave that stimulation.  And when we are loudly voicing our opinion to a group, we crave that validation.  Pack mentality is a well documented psychological phenomenon.  We somehow feel less culpable when perpetrating bad acts if we act in a group.  It’s like wading into a fast moving stream.  It’s easier to just go with the flow.  It takes a magnified amount of effort to move against the current of popular opinion and choose something different.

We see so much more with our access to social media and 24 hour news casts.  And let’s face it, violence and meanness, capture our attention.  It’s sensational, exciting, gets us all worked up, even if it’s just to condemn those perpetuating the violence.

I think often we use the excuse “it wasn’t my choice” to mitigate poor behavior, or poor life choices.  It takes fortitude and honesty to realize that it’s always your choice.  When the going gets difficult that’s when your true character surfaces.  When the pull of “evening the score” becomes much greater.  When meanness is justified or even warranted.  What do you do then?

There are times politeness is not the answer.  There are those who would manipulate the kindness of others for their own gain.  In those situations a stronger reaction is needed.  For me the answer is mindfulness.  Well thought-out reactions. Proportional responses.  However, for that to happen you need time.  Breathing into the moment helps create that space.

You are the culmination of the choices you make, both large and small.  Make sure you are making those choices deliberately.

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