When things don’t go our way, when we are tired or frustrated or disappointed or even frightened, the human instinct is to lash out. To respond with angry words and sometimes, particularly if we are children or just childish, with angry deeds. The rash of bullying being brought to the public consciousness now is nothing new. It is, as they say, as old as the hills.
We tell our children to say no to sex, to drugs, to smoking, to alcohol, to not talk to strangers.
We tell them not to lie, not to eat too much candy, not to jump on beds. And to look both ways before crossing the street.
Why don’t we also tell them to ‘just say no’ to being mean? More than that, why don’t we also tell them to just be nice. One of my favorite lines from a play and movie is from that wonderful work, “Harvey”, by Mary Chase, when that lovely man, Elwood P. Down says, “…my mother used to say to me, ‘In this world, Elwood … you must be oh, so smart or oh, so pleasant.’ For years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me.”
We can tell our children all these things. And we can just try as best we can to set an example. For another lovely man, Dr. Albert Schweitzer, is quoted as saying: “Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing.”