Are Gratuitous Potshots Considered Kind?

bartolottaIn a recent article on The Huffington Post called “How to Get Flat Abs, Have Amazing Sex and Rule the World in 8 Easy Steps,” Kate Bartolotta writes compellingly under this provocative headline about what’s important in life. It’s a good read. Among my favorites – ‘let people in’ and ‘practice gratitude.’

But the writer (or maybe more like the keen-eyed editor) who lives within me stopped short on one line in the second step, which encourages us to ‘Be happy now.’

“Not because of some shiny happy Oprah crap,” Bartolotta writes.

 

My Unfettered Advice:

Your work is good, Kate. But I have to ask, have you ever watched or read anything Oprah Winfrey has done? I’m aligned with almost all of the content in your article. But, and this is a big but, the reason I enjoy Oprah’s work is because this is what she’s been teaching for decades. She was way ahead of you (and me) on this.

I appreciate vigorous dialogue and thoughtful disagreement. And I get that Oprah isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. But why in the world is it that learning from Oprah has become akin to belonging to a cult? Her work is really, truly helping people. That’s not debatable; it’s fact. As for “Be happy now,” last I looked her interviews, life classes, and magazine are all geared to helping people clear out what might be hindering them in feeling happy. That’s a pretty darned synchronous message.

“Shiny happy” and “crap” when talking about a woman who has shied away from nothing – no controversy, no sensitive topic – to illuminate and teach her audience? That’s harsh and it serves no purpose in an otherwise well-written piece.

I was similarly stunned when I saw some of the mean-spirited comments on a recent profile about Elizabeth Gilbert in The New York Times Magazine. Her work doesn’t resonate with you? Cool, would love to hear why. But utter nastiness because she had the courage to let people in on her journey (and continues to do so via social media to great effect, by the way)?

Sometimes people gain popularity with the masses because they have something of value to add to the national (global, actually) dialogue. If their views or way of seeing the world bug us, we might do well to examine why. What buttons are they pushing?

It’s like Louis C.K. says to Conan O’Brien on that now viral video about cell phones and why he hates them. The Internet does not cultivate empathy at all. You can sting a person with no repercussions whatsoever. And it’s dangerous.

So here’s my unsolicited addition to your eight steps:

No. 9 – Don’t take gratuitous potshots at people just because you can. And if you’re going to, show some kind of marked contrast between what they believe/teach and what you’re espousing.

Or maybe this is just an addendum to your eighth step – ‘be kind.’

“If the biggest thing we do in life is to extend love and kindness to even one other human being, we have changed the world for the better,” you write.

Last I looked, Oprah was a human being.

 

(Note: In the interests of full disclosure, my own Oprah experience is documented here – What I Learned from Meeting Oprah.)

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