Transcending Cruelty (“The Importance of Being Important”)

by Kelvin H. Chin
Executive Director, Overcoming the Fear of Death Foundation

So, what about mean people, or bullying?
Or, racial stereotypes, ethnic slurs, religious wars, ethnic cleansing, office politics, etc.?

There are two concepts I want to introduce to our discussion:
1) Transcending Cruelty, and
2) The Importance of Being Important

These two concepts may be new in the framework of the discussion we’ve been having, but they of course are not new experiences to us — we encounter them unfortunately all too often.

First, what is “cruelty”? Cruelty is when you enjoy inflicting pain or unhappiness on another. So it could be physical or emotional pain.

And what’s the motivator for doing this? Ironically, the motivator is the same motivator that motivates us to do anything — the pursuit of happiness.

However, in this case the person inflicting the cruelty is so unhappy, so miserable within him (or herself) that to make himself happy, he must make those around him more unhappy than he is.

And that, in turn, leads to his feeling “more important” than the person he is being cruel to.

And it is that feeling of being more important that then becomes central to that person. And it becomes central to his or her ability to make him/herself happy. Thus, the concept of “the importance of being important.”

So, in self-reflection, that person does not define himself as a cruel or mean person. If you asked him if he was cruel, he would say of course not! But in questioning him further you would find that he really enjoys being important. And it’s that feeling of being more important than someone else that drives him, that makes him feel good.

However, to continue that feeling he must continue to make people around him feel weaker, more miserable. And then as he craves more happiness for himself, he tends to make that one group or one person more and more miserable — otherwise he is no longer “more important.”

So, the illusion here is that the person who is being cruel continually has to surround himself with people who are more miserable than he is. You might ask: “What kind of life is that?” But you see, since that person is not aware nor understanding of his own behavior, he does not see that illusion.

Now let’s talk about the concept of “Transcending Cruelty.”

This concept applies both to the person being cruel, and to the person who is being made miserable by the cruel person.

First let’s address the former which actually is the more difficult. If the cruel person realized the above illusion that we described, he or she would find that they might not derive as much happiness from their actions as they previously thought. (I mean really? — Surround yourself with weaker and more miserable people than you are…?)

That however takes a more self-aware individual to realize and accept that understanding, and by definition, the cruel person is most likely feeling miserable in the first place because of a low sense of self-esteem, a lack of self-confidence, which starts with a lack of self-awareness. So this change for that person will probably take a longer time to take place.

But, if you ever find yourself being mean or cruel or even standing by and watching someone exert that type of behavior on others and doing nothing about it, you might ask yourself whether you’re perhaps feeling better about yourself because you like the feeling of “being more important than someone else.” The “importance of being important” may have trumped your own better judgment.

Now, let’s turn to the second issue of how to help the person who is being treated cruelly, how to help them “transcend cruelty.”

The first step is to recognize what is motivating, what is driving the person to be a bully or to be a mean person. So, understanding that the person is trying to make you miserable because he is feeling miserable within himself is the first step. He is trying to control your emotional state, trying to make you feel worse than he feels.

The next step is to realize that your mind is sovereign, it stands as a free and independent thinking mind that has free will and that cannot be controlled by anyone or anything. We are only controlled by others if we allow ourselves to be controlled by others. It is a choice that we each make as individuals.

And in the case of cruelty, or bullying, or any form of meanness — as in any situation — we retain that control, that ability to choose. And so, we can choose to not be controlled, to not feel miserable by the actions or behavior of another.

Now, granted, this is often difficult to do. It does take a strong mind to make this happen, to make that choice. However, I suggest that it is not as difficult as we sometimes think it to be.

For example, any behavior that is unexpected by the person who is inflicting the cruelty, will cause him confusion. That is the first step in thwarting his cruelty.

As an example, laughing or otherwise displaying strength within yourself is unnerving to someone inflicting cruelty. It is not meeting his ends. It does not serve him. He will not derive happiness from someone who is more happy than he is.

Ian Fleming’s character James Bond honed this skill of thwarting his cruel captors repeatedly throughout his long fictional lifetime!

Remember, by definition, the cruel person is deriving his happiness from people who are more miserable than he is. If you do not succumb to his efforts to make you miserable, you cause him to fail. He will move on to someone much easier than you to make miserable.

What about physical pain? Because we do live in physical bodies that can be subjected to pain, cruel people will often tend to go there first. However, if we believe and experience that our minds are separate from our bodies, that our minds are sovereign as I said earlier, independent and freethinking, then this will help us to push through the pain, the physical pain.

And again, that is the first step to “transcending the cruelty” of the person inflicting it, namely causing them confusion. This unexpected behavior to withstand physical pain and not allow that very real physical pain to cause us mental suffering, or misery, will disconcert the other person, and he or she will move on to someone much easier than you.

This is the notion of Transcending Cruelty and the concept of the Importance of Being Important, and how these two very important concepts — how understanding them and applying them — can improve the quality of life, the state of happiness for ourselves and those around us.


Kelvin H. Chin is a Meditation Teacher, Life After Life Expert, and Author of “Overcoming the Fear of Death.” He learned to meditate at age 19, and has been teaching Turning Within and coaching others in their self-growth for 45 years. He helps people understand their life challenges through their individual belief systems, and helps them find their own solutions. His past life memories reach back many centuries, and he accesses those memories in his teaching and his coaching in the same way all coaches draw on their own available experiences for perspective and effective analogies. He can be reached at