Letters to Tom — Meanness

Dear Tom:

Suzy and I were talking about an issue that comes up in my book. Several times in the principal character’s life he has to face pure meanness in his coaches or others. Meanness is not a phenomena that’s limited to coaches or school bullies. Suzy ask me what is it that bring out that trait in people. I told her in several instances of my life a coach couldn’t distinguish the quality of “toughness” with meanness. He believed that being mean, he was teaching a young athlete to be “tough.” Meanness in my experience only brings out other negative qualities rather than having a positive effect.

We hear commentators talk about an athlete or politician needing a “mean” streak, as if this was an attribute one should admire and desire. My own experience is the opposite. Meanness is something we should discourage and resist. I’m confident that everyone has their own experience with different forms of meanness. I bet that few of those who encounter it believe they learned a positive lesson or developed a “winning trait.”

Do Sufi’s talk about “meanness?” For me it’s an emotion that should go into extinction. Your friend. Webb

About the author

Webb Hubbell is the former Associate Attorney General of The United States. His novels, When Men Betray, Ginger Snaps, A Game of Inches, The Eighteenth Green, and The East End are published by Beaufort Books and are available online or at your local bookstore. When Men Betray won one of the IndieFab awards for best novel in 2014. Ginger Snaps and The Eighteenth Green won the IPPY Awards Gold Medal for best suspense/thriller. His latest, “Light of Day” will be on the bookstands soon.

1 Comment +

  1. Dear Webb,

    First, I absolutely agree with you…I see no utility with meanness. When I encounter it, however, I tend to go to a place of “I wonder what went poorly in that person’s life. There would appear to be no rewards from acting mean other than perhaps something connected with reassuring a fragile ego that “I’m ok.”

    I looked at a couple of my trusty Sufi references and did not find any reference to the words “Mean” or “Meanness”… Not surprising. The closest I could come was in Hazrat Inayat Kahn’s book, The Art of Being and Becoming. In it, he talks about “bluntness” which Kahn calls the opposite of a virtue Sufis call Muruat – a delicate combination of consideration and respect. Kahn says that “man is born in order to perfect the human character” which is done through “great thoughtfulness and consideration.” He says that all people deserve respect, and that learning and practicing these virtues in our time and culture are seen by some as weakness. However, Kahn says, there is no weakness in mastering oneself, and that the practice of respecting others – even and perhaps especially if it is challenging to respect the person – is a practice that leads one to mastery.

    I don’t hear a lot of room for meanness in that!

    Your friend

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