Everyone hates Braggy McBrags
The other day, I ignored a man at a street corner begging for change with a sign that said, “God loves you. Please give.” I saw a woman standing waiting for me to open a mall door for her, and thought, “Oh please, Lazy. Open it yourself” and I walked in a different door. I left my neighbour’s recycling bins at the curb instead of bringing them up to his garage. But I didn’t tell you about any of those things, did I? Not one of them made the Facebook status reel, nary a tweet was written about these things. Had I given that man some change, or held the door, or done any of a million other kindnesses, would I have told you? Maybe. But I didn’t share any of that this week. Well, ok, I’m blogging about them now, but I’ve got a good reason, so hang on a sec.
This week, two of my friends independently mentioned how annoying it is to perform kind acts and then talk about them, and that hit a chord with me. The suggestion is that a modest person should not talk about their deeds. One should be kind in secret and silence, with humility. Somehow bragging about goodness removes some of said goodness. A truly “good” person doesn’t “brag” about the good they’ve done. They are secretive super heroes, committing kindness under cover of modesty. I take issue with this.
Perhaps it’s because I absolutely have talked about the kind things I’ve done and now I’m feeling a little sheepish following a social media slap on the wrist? It wasn’t to brag, really it wasn’t. (Or, was it?) No more than when I post a photo of a meal I’m proud of is that meant to be a brag. It is something I’ve done that I’m proud of; something I want to share. Is that so bad? Look how great my meal is, I’m clearly an amazing chef, and far better than you! When I share a milestone my kids reach, is that also bragging? My kid crawled before yours and is therefore superior! If I tell you my husband brought me flowers, is that a faux pas? My husband is far better than yours, be jealous! These things never crossed my mind, and it stings a little to think that perhaps they’ve been read this way.
Now I’m questioning everything I do: if I post a photo of my kids on my couch, do you think I’m bragging about my decor? If I tell you I’m shopping for Christmas, am I bragging about my financial situation? How far does this stuff extend?
Is it context-based? If I’m trying to encourage others to do good, is it ok then? Does the motivation for the act (ie: for praise as opposed to just do good, period) change the way it is received? Is a martyr just really annoying? (Ahem, yes.) I’m not talking about corporations trying to cover up their corruption by making charitable donations here. I’m just talking about your average person. Does the personality of the speaker matter? Does it matter how it’s talked about?
If you tell me about something good you’ve done, maybe it’ll inspire me to go do something kind. The goodness has been done, isn’t that the point? This is the whole point behind the RAOK (random acts of kindness) movement, right? Sometimes we forget to reach out to our fellow humans and when I see a tweet roll by about someone paying for the order of the person behind them in the drive-thru it prompts me to get my nice on. Then again, if I see someone who is constantly bragging about being good to others, sometimes I get that niggling feeling in the back of my head telling me they’re trying to cover up for something. Like maybe they’re just a villain in a superhero’s cape.
Or is this another case of the humblebrag gone wild? You’re not really bragging, but you totally are, and we all see through it so no matter what goodness you’re doing you’re just annoying us anyhow?
Now I’ve talked myself in circles and I’m certainly going to question telling anyone about anything kind I ever do, ever again.
What do you think? Do you tell people when you do something nice? Do you hate hearing about other peoples’ good deeds?
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