What do you do when people treat you cruelly and unkindly? Most of us have had people treat us this way at one point or another. Often we don’t know what to do about it.
How We Try to Handle It
Sometimes we are able to shake off people’s unkindness and to move on, but sometimes, for a variety of reasons, people’s unkindness cause deeply and consistently painful feelings.
What are Cruel and Unkind Actions?
I take cruelty to be the kind of behavior people show when they take delight in inflicting emotional or physical suffering on us.
Unkind actions, on the other hand, are actions people commit when they treat us with scorn or harshness or in a demeaning way.
Why Do Such Actions Hurt Us?
It is no mystery that painful feelings caused by unkindness and cruelty hurt. They make it really hard for us to feel free and safe to express our self.
Expressing our self becomes even harder when the people we are around frequently are continually and persistently cruel to us.
When we cannot express our self authentically and lovingly to the world, our light grows dim, and the whole worlds suffers. We need a way to respond to people with courage when they treat us badly so we can allow help our light to shine.
Therefore, here are five things to do when people treat you unkindly and cruelly:
One: Remember that you never, ever deserve to be treated with unkindness or cruelty.
When people treat us cruelly and unkindly, it is usually because of two reasons, and neither of these reasons warrant cruelty or unkindness.
Fist, people might get mad at us because we make mistakes. We do not deserve cruelty and unkindness because of mistakes. Nobody is perfect, and being a human being actually entails making a lot of mistakes.
We are not required to be perfect. All we are required to do is to make a wise and reasonable choice with the knowledge we have. If people treat us cruelly and unkindly for doing that, they are suggest that we deserve scorn and contempt for being human. That is unreasonable.
People Try to Use Us Sometimes
Second, sometimes people treat us unkindly and cruelly because they try to use us to get things, and we do not cooperate. It is important to remember that it is never our job to be or do what people want us to be or do.
Our job is to be the most loving, moral, and responsible versions of ourselves.
And in fact, we can’t really do this job if we are constantly trying to do and be what people want us to do and be.
Our Job is Not to Please Others Constantly
If we constantly worry about what other people think, we fail to fully develop and listen to our own moral and mature judgment.
People’s job is to be the boss of themselves. Our job is to be the boss of us. People can offer advice if we ask for it, but other than that, the way we live our life is really none of their business.**
So when people treat us badly for acting like the boss of our self, they treat us us badly for doing our job. This is inappropriate of them.*
Two: You always deserve to be treated with dignity. So does everyone else.
All human beings deserve to be treated with dignity. When we treat people with dignity, we recognize that people have the light of humanity in them. Furthermore, we recognize that everyone’s light is equally deserving of development.
How Do We Encourage People’s Light?
People encourage the growth of our light with their words and actions such as
Telling the truth instead of lying.
Using their words to encourage and comfort us.
Showing us compassion when we are suffering.
Acting with respect and civility towards us.
Actions that Crush People’s Light
It is also possible to crush people’s light. We do this when we . . .
Lie to people.
Discourage or mock people with our words.
Treat people with a lack of compassion when they suffer.
Show disrespect and incivility.
Such actions make it difficult for us to think clearly, morally, and ethically, and to grow in love. That’s why we should never treat others in these unkind and cruel ways, and people should not treat us this way either.
Everyone deserves dignity.
(Treating people with dignity does not mean “being nice” or letting people do whatever they want. You can read more about this here.)
Three: When people treat us with unkindness and cruelty, it is their issue and not ours.
When people treat us with cruelty and unkindness to get what they want, they are bullying us. Bullying is always an inappropriate way to interact with people.
People bully us when they act as though they have the right to dominate people, to push them around, and to use violence and fear to motivate them. When people act this way, they treat people like animals or rocks, instead of human beings.
Don’t Treat People Like Rocks
People who treat others like animals or rocks are operating from bad morals and a weak and immoral character. (It may be that they have many virtues, but their bullying certainly stems from weak and immoral aspects of their character.) Therefore, their unkind and cruel behavior is a matter of a bad internal state they have, and it is their responsibility to fix their inner life.
It is not our responsibility to conform to their demands, especially because they are commands motivated by bad or weak aspects of their character. It is hard sometimes, but you can let their behavior go. It is about them, not about you.
Four: When people treat us with unkindness and cruelty, we have the right to say “You can’t treat me that way” or to walk away.
When people treat us cruelly and unkindly, we often feel like we deserve it, and that we can’t stick up for ourselves.
We may feel like that is just the way life is. On the other hand, we might worry that if we stand up to unkindness and cruelty that we are somehow being unkind and cruel ourselves. None of this is true. And here is why:
You are an amazing, powerful human being.
The world needs your light.
The more your light shines, the more you encourage the light of others to shine.
The more their light shines, the more you encourage your light to shine.
This brings more love to the world, and the world becomes a more beautiful place.
When people are cruel and unkind, they dim our light.
This means we have less light to share with ourselves, others, and the whole world.
The world cannot afford this. No one can afford this.
Friend, you have 100% permission to stand up for yourself and to tell unkind and cruel people they can’t treat you that way or to walk away or to diminish your contact with them if they constantly refuse to listen to you. When you do this, you make the world a better place.
Five: There are all sorts of people in the world who want to show you kindness and love.
I know this can be hard to believe–especially if you’ve people treat you with unkindness and cruelty a lot.
Please know, Friend, that love and kindness are joining mindsets. People who are full of love and kindness love to show love and kindness to others, especially other people who are filled with love and kindness.
So, when we practice showing love and kindness regularly, we tend to start finding other people who practice love and kindness.
You deserve love and kindness, and you will find it.
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You might also enjoy this post:
 Although some people’s light is certainly really dimmed by their behavior.
*Of course, if we are hurting people, they certainly should tell us we are hurting them, and we have the responsibility to stop.
**Of course people have a right to tell us if we are hurting ourselves, others, or them. And I realize that what constitutes people harming themselves or others is a matter of debate. Unfortunately, I do not have the space to address this issue in this post.
Published by shellypruittjohnson
My name is Shelly Johnson, and I am a writer and philosopher with a Ph.D. in philosophy. One of my primary personal and philosophical interests is how we can learn to love ourselves and each other better in order to cultivate personal and political resilience. I teach ethics and a variety of other courses at a local college. I am the author of the blog Love is Stronger. I am also the author of three logic and critical thinking books for high school and middle school: _Argument Builder_, _Discovery of Deduction_ (co-author), and _Everyday Debate_, published by Classical Academic Press. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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7 thoughts on “When People Treat You Cruelly and Unkindly”
I love your essays!
Angel of Grace, that is so kind! Thank you for taking your valuable time to read them and leave comments. I deeply appreciate it.
Really really in love with the way you have written. I just feel the same way
Thank you so much, Friend, for reading and commenting. I am glad you enjoyed the post!
Shelly Pruitt Johnson-
I have been tortured for the past “10” years trying to fit in as a Health Professional. At the level I have reached, (through much hard work, and through the Grace of God), bullying is “omnipresent.” I have been told “Get Over It,” ” Toughen up,” ” Get thicker skin.” I have NEVER been able to figure out, for my entire lifetime, why people can be so hardened, and mean, while at the same time, I am not sure why I was born “so sensitive” and such a “target?” I am also a philosopher, in my own right, as I write poetry, to calm my heart, and express my soul, I guess. I try so diligently, to become confident, feel worthwhile, yet unfortunately, the past seems to continue its hold on my feelings of worthiness, and insecurity. If you saw me face to face, and saw me interact with others, you would think I am the strongest woman in the world, but inside, is this 6-13 year old, still wishing for the princess cap in Kindergarten.
How eloquently, and simply you write and reveal, what I have been feeling for years. What a true gift you have….. Please continue to Shed the light on bullying, and its affects on others. While I will continue to true and be my Best Self, aside from dealing with the constant people that seem to show hatred, though they work in the Nursing Field? Why are women so mean to each other; Why can’t we show the Love of Christ each and everyday? I am far from perfect, and am so sorry, if I have unintentionally hurt anyone out there, It isn’t until I reached the present level I am at, where I have endured such abuse. When I want to spend the day in bed, and my MD, wants to know why I need to increase my antidepressant dosage, as I appear FINE to him, remember people to be kind to one another. I would have helped Jesus carry his Cross, in front of ALL of you. It’s all I have left, to believe this Life is but temporary, for you have all taken the best of me. KINDNESS MATTERS! Try it!
Hello Friend: Thank you so much for reading and commenting. I am so sorry for your painful feelings about bullying, and I can really empathize. I struggle with bullies, too, and I find this come from sensitivity. I, like you, view sensitivity as a special kind of gift, but of course unfortunately, not all people view it this way. I am so glad you find my writing helpful. I wish you peace, Friend.