Growing up, I cannot tell you how many times I was told, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” This, coupled with my total inability to be confrontational, has led me to just keep my mouth shut many times. And it’s probably why I’m so puzzled when people say mean things just for the sake of being mean.

Allow me to explain. First, while I tell you that I’m extremely non-confrontational and a perfect southern lady when it comes to conversation, I don’t want you to think for one minute that I wouldn’t scratch your eyes out or give you an earful if I thought you deserved it. Mess with my family, I’m all over you. And sure, if you bring me the wrong dish in a restaurant, I’ll send it back. But I won’t send it back if it’s just not to my liking. I’m never rude to wait staff. I am rude, from time to time, to the telemarketers that manage to bypass my privacy director, but only after they refuse to take no for an answer. But I’m not rude just to be rude. Or mean just to be mean.

What got me thinking about this is the fact that one of the blogs I read is written by someone who is going thru a rough time right now. And she posts from time to time about little things that happen. And most people comment to offer advice, or a hug, or support. But some people just turn the snark up to 11 and say lousy stuff to her. And this just bugs the everlivin’ hell out of me. They aren’t offering up constructive criticism. They aren’t offering advice by playing devil’s advocate. They’re just being mean. She isn’t ASKING for advice. She isn’t ASKING for help. She’s venting. She’s talking. What we all need to do. And people should just listen. Make a comment, sure. If the comment will make her feel better, or less alone, about what she’s feeling. I know the anonymity of the internet gives people freedom that they never had before. I know it makes people more willing to be honest. But that freedom doesn’t have to come at the expense of someone that is reaching out.

Now I’m not worried about her. From what I’ve read, this particular writer is a tough cookie and has given it right back to them. But I am worried about us. About what we think we can do. I’m not saying that we all have to be head-nodding yes-men. But we can all afford to be more kind.