You might have heard the phrase ‘sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind’. What does this mean?
The first example that may spring to mind is of a parent with a screaming child. The kid wants another piece of cake but the discerning parent knows it will puke its guts up if they allow the kid to gorge. Despite the apparent suffering the child so noisily displays, the parent remains firm knowing they are saving the child more suffering by opting for the lesser evil, regardless of how miserable it might make them feel to witness their offspring in such anguish.
Cult of the Politically Correct
Today it seems to have become borderline virtuous to be the offended party in an argument. Emotional sputterings of ‘how DARE you’ have replaced thoughtful, fact supported discussions on many sensitive topics. Obviously there are certain odious examples of offensiveness that are appropriately met with righteous condemnation. Racism is one we can all agree is unacceptable. When having a difference of opinion though, emotions reign supreme and smarmy ignorance to opposing information has become something that is seized upon with apparent glee.
No such thing as Black and White
I was part of a recent conversation with a passionate feminist who regularly uses phrases such as mansplain to negate and discard, quite rudely, valid points that are being made that may not fit into her world-view. This lady, who I love to bits, has had a difficult life and has been treated shittily in the past by a few men, so you can’t really blame the need to defend her position. The problem is that her viewpoint has become tied up with her identity and no longer allows for any flexibility. As a result, many arguments occur that are totally unnecessary.
Being a fairly decent chap (people say!) I found myself getting rather concerned when she recently became single and started continually spouting off about how ‘all men are arseholes’ and other such reductive, generalised nonsense. In an attempt to point out that that simply wasn’t true, some of us are actually quite lovely, she went into a rant about the gender pay gap and how unfair it was. I agreed with with her in the sense that two people, regardless of gender, doing the same job at the same skill level producing the same output should indeed receive the same remuneration. As a whole, this is actually how it works. This was not what she meant. She was of course referring to the fact that at a societal level men are paid more on average than women. On average. This doesn’t mean two people doing the same job get paid differently based on gender, it means that men as a general rule are doing the jobs that pay better. Men often work longer hours 1 and do work that is more dangerous 2. Men gravitate towards the STEM fields 3 which can be quite lucrative as opposed to higher levels of women in the not quite as lucrative fields of healthcare and education 4. Regardless of who gets paid what though, you can’t say one gender is better than the other. That’s horseshit. You get idiots and bullies that are men, and idiots and bullies that are women.
The cruelty of intolerance
Every point that was brought up by myself was promptly ignored and scoffed at as ‘patriarchal bullshit’ and I was then accused of being part of the ‘toxic masculinity problem’. At this point I walked away and I’m sad to say I don’t know if we are friends anymore. At the point of my patience breaking I could have thrown in more supporting data such as rising rates of male suicide 5. I didn’t though, because at that point it was my ego attempting to reassert itself and it was a switch from concern to a pissing contest. My attempts to raise the consciousness of my friend out of the hateful patterns failed and I was pissed off, both at my inability to articulate the facts in a convincing way and her apparently pathological inability to listen.
Every now and then there comes a time when you just know better. Beyond thought and intellect, you can feel in your bones that someone you love is hurting themselves through some elaborate, well constructed illusion. Things that seem to have been forgotten rather than not known, almost like they have chosen ignorance over enlightened thought. Things like being kind to people, gentle and caring with yourself and having the ability to forgive and let go of past hurts. It is at these moments when you must have the fortitude to tell truths that hurt because, ultimately, any vital truth you’ve forgotten is gonna sting like hell when you hear it. It’s here where you must be cruel to be kind. However, it’s essential that you closely examine the motivations for taking this path; are you asserting yourself to be in the right, or are you genuinely trying to improve the welfare of someone who is harming themselves, whether deliberately or unconsciously. A great example is in the martial arts. Sometimes you have to make your partner feel the pain of a technique for them to understand how to properly execute it. This is a tacit agreement that is made with your colleague and requires the deepest respect and trust. Any abuse of this trust and these feelings of kinship can evaporate in a heartbeat.
Fuck your eggshells man!
It is so important to say the things that need to be said. In a PC culture where everyone seems to be walking on eggshells and tiptoeing around each others feelings it is such a valuable skill to be able to pierce through all that and see the reality of the matters at hand. If your mate, who is sometimes a bit defensive, is being a total arse and has been for a while, despite your regular reminders of the situation, it is at this point where it is probably appropriate to act the arse yourself. No longer able to stomach the moping and woe is me you decide that some hard love is required. You assume the characteristics that have been on display for so long. Often-times this presentation of harsh reality, like holding up a mirror for the other to see themselves in can be the proverbial slap to the face to snap them out of their intellectual hysteria. Doing this requires the deepest levels of empathy as you literally step in to their shoes, experience their pain, cry their tears and then dispel all of it with the kindness of tough love.
Takes one to know one
Have you ever had the experience of one of your friends who is normally kind and gentle being harsh and rude? Did they criticize or judge? Did you knee jerk and tell them to fuck off? Or did you examine their possible motives? Why is that normally humble and altruistic soul now being a self indulgent twat?
Perhaps I’m being a self indulgent twat in writing this. We can be our own worst enemies when it comes to matters of humility and thinking we have all the answers. The fact is we don’t which is why I stress the vital importance of examining your own motives before embarking on a tirade of unwarranted advice. Ramming wisdom down someone’s throat can have the opposite effect to the one intended. Like most things in life, this has an aspect of zen-like, counter-intuitivity about it. Nothing is ever quite black and white.
Lets go back to the poor ear bashed parent mentioned at the beginning. Are they denying their screaming offspring a chance at further saccharine delight because the ego demands supremacy over this tiny hollering demon they must control, or are they looking out for the child’s best interest?
Softly softly not always catchee monkey…
It’s not about being a know it all. If you feel genuine concern for someone but gentle, ‘there there’ type support just isn’t hitting the mark, then its perhaps time to roll out the heavy artillery. Like an intervention for an addict, a pinch of cruelty is sometime the best medicine. Just make sure you follow it up with liberal helpings of love afterwards.
Be excellent, friends
Tell the truth, always. Even if it hurts. Especially if it hurts. Then give em a big hug once the tears have dried and there’s no more crockery to smash. You love this person and pandering to the bullshit helps no-one. Taking the thornier path is ultimately the better one. As long as the light within burns fierce and true, you can wade into the filth and darkness without fear of it taking over your soul. Tell the truth and be excellent to one another.
- https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/06/29/men-say-they-work-more-than-women-heres-the-truth/ “even among full-time workers (those usually working 35 hours or more per week), men worked longer than women — 8.2 hours compared with 7.8 hours”
- https://www.forbes.com/sites/chuckdevore/2018/12/19/fatal-employment-men-10-times-more-likely-than-women-to-be-killed-at-work/#68c6530652e8 “the four most dangerous occupations were in commercial fishing, logging, aircraft pilots, and roofers”
- https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2019/02/the-explosion-of-women-teachers/582622/ “the gender distribution in the profession has strangely grown more imbalanced, according to recently released data, largely because women are still pursuing teaching at far greater rates than men”
- https://afsp.org/about-suicide/suicide-statistics/ “In 2017, men died by suicide 3.54x more often than women.”