Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Necessity of Nastiness

An old song by Nick Lowe once proclaimed that you had to be cruel to be kind. Referencing the adage that love sometimes has to be tough, the lyrics stated such love was a good sign. Of what? I presume that it was real love. The Switchfoot song, "Yet", declares that "if it doesn't break your heart, it isn't love. If it doesn't break your heart, it isn't real. If it doesn't break your heart it's not enough."

Is being nasty the same as being cruel, or even tough for that matter? That is the question I am posing.

People can be very nasty, especially when they are upset, and nastiness can be very hurtful. Tough love can be painful too, but surely there's a difference between speaking hard words of truth, or acting in a superficially unloving way, in order to truly love someone, and simply being spiteful. Love desires the highest good for its object. Love wants what is best. Undoubtedly, this requires some very stern, even hurtful words, on occasion.

I suppose it depends on the intent. What motivates the nastiness? I'm not a mean person, I never deliberately try to injure people with my words. It isn't likely that anyone would confess to being nasty, but we have all met nasty people. Bullies are nasty but they aren't motivated by anything even remotely resembling love. People say nasty regrettable things when they are tired, stressed or angry, but it isn't with the intention of somehow ultimately displaying some kindness, is it?

A distinction between nastiness or cruelty, and tough love must be drawn. Is nastiness necessary? Ever? Do you have to be cruel to be kind? What do you think?

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  1. I think there is a distinction between nastiness, cruelty and tough love. Tough love implies you want what's best for the other person while having to stick to your own guns. Nastiness and cruelty do indeed come from a shallower, darker place, one likely fueled by envy and/or self-loathing.

  2. Wonderfully worded Jeffrey. I agree.

  3. I'm a 2nd language English speaker/writer so I sometimes mess up the finest nuances in the meaning of English words, unfortunately. However, to me cruelty is something done with an evil intention. That's different from hurting someone without intending to, which may also happen.

    Cold As Heaven

  4. I'm also an ESL teacher. I love semantics!