On Being Good and Being Grumpy

I’ve kind of felt like I’m attending my own funeral these past weeks, what with everyone publicly saying such nice things about me. You must be worried I’ll get a swelled head! To those who don’t really know me, please be assured that I am not nearly as virtuous as one might gather from all the comments here (which I “like” so you know I’ve seen them, not because I agree!). Only those closest to me (these days mostly just the incredibly patient and tolerant Roy) have been witness to my other side, which is impatient, short-tempered, and –worst of all– critical. It seems unbelievable even to me that I could be critical of someone doing their utmost to be loving and caring, but alas, it is so. (I’m also frequently just annoying.) These are character traits that I have struggled against for decades and had, I believed in recent years, made some progress against. But being ‘good’ is easy when everything is going well. Now that bad side is asserting itself again. (Yes, to be human is to be flawed, and I’ll be so until that last breath!)

So I am reminded that when others are less than their best eulogy selves, it is usually because they are struggling in some way. We may not see it, or it might be something so deeply buried in their past even they don’t see it, but generally, few of us choose to be grumpy or unpleasant when we are able to choose to be cheerful and kind. Though we of course all still have to take responsibility for how we behave (reasons are not excuses!), we could also use understanding and compassion for the struggles behind our bad behaviour (like a child’s tantrum, which in my experience is always because of an unmet need that the child cannot even identify, let alone express). I think maybe we could even just assume that if someone (sociopaths aside) is not being very nice (like last week’s chemo nurse!), they in fact need extra kindness themself (I am horrified by my own grammar here, but I’m trying to embrace the singular, gender-neutral ‘they/them’—and this is what happens!). That is, even those who are not kind need kindness.

(This post is not meant to solicit assurances that I am allowed to be grumpy while sick –Roy keeps telling me that– nor to get extra kindness or praise for myself. It’s really just to encourage kindness and understanding, which seems to be emerging as my end-of-life mission. So please send any generous words to another—like the truly sweet and giving Roy, who needs the kindness to counteract my grumpiness!)

About susanbriscoe

English teacher, writer
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