I recently received an unsolicited series of complaints about my grossest behaviors and character flaws. A number of my present and past actions were called into question, from events that went back years in the past. According to my attacker, several people have conversed about my troubling habits.
It was an upsetting surprise. I felt like a punching bag: the real-life receiving end of self-help programs that encourage airing The Truth vs. sharing concise, relevant ideas on how to move a project or relationship forward. There were no reasonable requests for behavior modification... just a lot of "Truth" all at once.
I did not respond with my own laundry list of resentments and challenges. Nor did I defend or deny allegations. I did say it was haunting to know about talk behind my back. My reply did not satisfy; and further insults came in. The whole thing was so mean and ugly.
Once the tirade trickled down and I had recovered a little (by getting a lot of exercise and and writing a bunch of string quartets), I began thinking about how to teach my son to air HIS grievances compassionately and in a timely manner---and how to NOT air all of his grievances. Truthfulness does not need to mean the whole truth.
I also started thinking about how to to teach him to NOT ENGAGE with hurtful people, but to also stand up for himself.
And then I realized that if my son had received such a comprehensive series of character attacks, I would have clawed the emailer's eyes out.
So, Nigel, do not say terrible things to people.
If people say terrible things to you, here is my poem for you:
Son, if someone's mean to you
And thinks that it is fair
To judge, insult and hurt you
And tell you all his cares:
Be kind and listen, don't fight back
And let this chap unload;
And meanwhile, I will have your back
And punch him in the nose.