Survival of the Meanest?

Honesty is the best policy. That’s what I try to teach my children and that’s what my parents taught to me. I’m also trying to teach them, like me, to be polite and respectful towards others. I hope to instill in them that it is better to be accommodating to the needs of others than self-absorbed. It is my plan that my children will grow up to be self-respecting but respectful members of society.
But am I doing them a disservice? My biggest weakness as an adult is that I’m not assertive enough. Take my natural shyness – which many people don’t believe I have, but trust me, I do – and combine it with the lessons my parents taught me and I have to work hard to make myself heard when I feel things are unfair.
I’m shocked, to tell the truth, when someone treats me badly. I always expect the best of other people and don’t know how to react when I don’t get it. It takes me time and distance before I can respond to nastiness, lies, or rudeness.
My children are the same.  My daughter just avoids people who are mean to her and my son is truly shocked, like me, when someone treats him unfairly.
I’ve always believed that its better they get hurt once or twice than that they hurt others. So I’ve continued to teach them the lessons of humility and kindness.
But am I raising survivors? Sure, the meek may inherit the earth, but they’ll probably be decimated by the strong and powerful first and then handed a torn-out shell of the earth at the end.
Since returning home to Newfoundland, I see it more and more: politeness and honesty are not rewarded. What’s rewarded is knowing how to work the system, and lying to get what you want.
It wasn’t until I returned to this province that I had work literally stolen from me by a higher up coworker. It wasn’t until I returned here that I saw nepotism and disregard for quality over connections really take place.
These has all been driven home to me these past two months as I’ve attempted to work with  the Workplace Health and Safety Compensation Commission regarding a work injury I suffered before Christmas. It’s been six weeks and my claim is only getting approved now. It took many phone calls and a call to the complaints line to finally get it that far.
What held it up? Well, first I was honest. Although my injury was a new one, I had suffered a similar injury over ten years ago. I mentioned that to both my employer and WHSCC because I thought it might be relevant. Despite the fact that my doctor and physiotherapist both agreed that it did not impact this injury, I was questioned and my very integrity questioned because I brought this up.
Then, of course, like usual, I expected people to be honest, trustworthy, and to do their jobs properly. This was obviously a mistake. Not only did they not do their jobs, but they tried to shift the blame onto me.
Of course this all sounds like whining to the average reader, but to me it has made me deeply question the ethos under which I am raising my children.
It seems they are expected to be liars and cheats by “the system” and that politeness will get them nowhere in life.
I don’t think these are attitudes endemic to Newfoundland only, but anywhere where a small population struggles for even smaller opportunities.
Because of my struggles now, and in the past, when dealing honestly and being accommodating with coworkers and social systems, I really wonder if what I am teaching my children is how to be a patsy.
Because that’s the way I’ve been made to feel these past weeks - not a valued member of society, but a kicking ball for others to abuse.  This goes beyond the “better they get hurt once or twice than hurt others” variety of abuse.
Is it better that I teach my children to lie when necessary; to accuse before being accused; to not trust others or expect competence from anyone? Won’t this in fact help them get further in life, help them survive and even succeed?
And yet, I can’t do it. I can’t bring myself to raise children who are liars and cheats. I know others do it and think it’s for the best, but I can’t. So my daughter will continue to be sent to her room for lying and my son will continue to be admonished for not playing nicely with others. And perhaps they will become someone else’s kicking ball, but hopefully I will have instilled a sense of self-worth and pride in them. Hopefully, they too, like me, will understand that it’s more important to be true to yourself than to get ahead.
And while this means they may not survive in some apocalyptic situation, I hope that they will also grow into the kind of citizens who know how to prevent those very situations from happening.  Perhaps they may not be survivors and schemers, but they will be good Samaritans. I just hope they never have to deal with WHSCC!


  1. Cheats get fucked over by bigger cheaters. Decent people learn to be more wary and thus survive with their dignity intact. You're bringing your kids up right. Honesty and decency are valued by honest and decent people... and they're the ones whose opinion truly counts. People don't like liars and cheaters, for all they may give them a thumbs up for working the system there'll be a niggle in the back of their minds to keep these people at a distance. People like you I'd happily hug.

  2. I think you are looking at this in a black and white way. Yes most of the people they will meet they should treat with respect but when you come up against people who are downright nasty you can't play nice with them especially in a job situation because they will walk all over you. It is not really a question of being nasty back but learning how to diffuse the cunts of society or to kill them with kindness. Life is definitely not fair and maybe kids should be made aware of that?

  3. I hate liars, I missed the office politics around me completely, I always tried to be nice to everyone and worked hard. I was persistent, but always polite. And I was fairly successful, until I lost my job. I think you're doing the right thing by your kids x

  4. There will always be people who are only too keen to shaft you, thankfully though those people are in the minority, they're just the one's who stick in your memory.

    Good people do prosper.

  5. I also could not raise my children to be liars and cheats. I want them to be honest but also be able to stand up for themselves. Funny my latest post is about teaching our children by example.

  6. I think honesty is best as well.

    The one thing I wanted to point out to you is that in the first paragraphs you kind of made some kind of correlation about honesty and assertiveness.

    I think you can be an honest person and still be assertive. I think your lack of assertiveness is what is troubling you, not the honesty.

  7. It's very depressing but it's exactly the same here. My parents still have to support me because I was honest with the benefits agency and they would rather give money to people who lie than people who need it.
    I have been pondering the same thing as you, whether to raise liars or stick to my morals, but because of how hard I find life purely because of my honesty and need for justice I think I would rather my children be liars than have to suffer. It's sad that this is how life and society is in the Western world now but I don't think it will be changing back :(

  8. Dara, I'm so sorry that you've had such a horrible experience with Worker's Comp. I can't even imagine how angry and frustrated you must feel. But you are definitely doing the right thing by raising your kids to get good honest people. I firmly believe that eventually people are going to have to learn to work together and genuinely care for the whole world. If not, life on Earth just can't continue. We are on the cusp of a global culture. And there is so much inequity right now. Without people like you leading the way, we will never be able to create a world where everyone has as much access to health, education and happiness as the next person.


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