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Why being “mean” is sometimes a good thing

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I’ve always wanted to be seen as a “tough guy,” but I just never thought I was mean enough to pull it off. When I watch Gladiator, Dirty Harry, Rambo or any other guy movies to that get my testosterone going, I long for that kind of rugged toughness, but an honest self-assessment reminds me that in terms of meanness.

I’m much more like Mr. Rogers than Mr. T (sorry for all the 1980’s references)! I’ve come to discover that “meanness” can be a necessary part of life, but it doesn’t usually look like it looks in the movies and you don’t have to look like a gladiator to pull it off. In fact, you don’t even have to be unkind or disrespectful. Here’s why…

I just finished reading one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. It’s called Be Mean about the Vision: Preserving and Protecting what matters. The book was written by my friend, Shawn Lovejoy, and even though it’s called “Be Mean,” he’s actually one of the nicest guys one the planet.

PrintThe book isn’t about meanness in a cruel or disrespectful sense, but rather, it’s about being tenacious, firm and unapologetically courageous when it matters most. The book was written with a primary focus on leadership, but I’ve found all sorts of practical applications to other areas including my marriage, my personal health and my faith. Here are a few examples of why “being mean” is sometimes necessary…

Being “mean” in your marriage NEVER means it’s okay to be unkind or disrespectful to your spouse, but it does mean you must be fiercely protective of your home, your heart and your marriage vows. It means being relentlessly consistent and possibly even removing people from your life who are a negative influence on your marriage.

In the book, Shawn defined Success like a mathematical equation: Success=Clear Vision+Compelling Communication+Consistent direction. That definition was given within the context of healthy leaders and healthy organizations, but I think it also applies beautifully to marriage. Your marriage needs a clear vision, compelling communication and a consistent direction as you embark on that lifelong adventure together with your spouse.

Being “mean” in your parenting never means being rude or abusive to your children, but it does mean being tenaciously vigilant about protecting them and lovingly but firmly enforcing boundaries. It might mean prohibiting your kids from spending time around certain friends. It might mean creating boundaries your kids don’t understand (or even resent) at the time, but will protect them in the long run.

Being “mean” in your personal health might requires saying a firm “NO” to tempting offers of unhealthy food. It might mean saying “NO” to opportunities to get together socially because you need to protect your schedule to allow for consistent time to exercise. I’m particularly bad at this one which is probably why I have love handles.

Being “mean” in your faith doesn’t mean you’re ever judgmental or arrogant in your beliefs, but it does mean you’re unapologetically committed to your faith and willing to consistently make faith-based decisions even when they might be unpopular, uncomfortable or countercultural.


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This article was originally published here and is used with permission.

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