“She’s never anything but mean to me,” a woman said to me during the question and answer session of a speech I gave recently. I was talking about my new book The Opposite of Hate: A Field Guide to Repairing Our Humanity about how our culture has become increasingly cruel and why we’re all part of the problem.
But, this woman standing at the mic inferred that it was her co-worker who started it. To hear her tell it, her co-worker had never been anything but mean to her and so this woman didn’t have any option but to hate her right back. “Well,” I offered gently from the stage, “When’s the last time you did something nice for her?”
At first, she squinted back at me like I was crazy and then, slowly, her head started to nod with the realization that I had made a painfully obvious point. We’re often so busy thinking that other people are the mean ones we don’t realize how we’re part of the problem – and how we need to be part of the solution.