A mean-spirited person is one whose natural impulse is to cause harm or trouble for others. We are all mean-spirited at times, but this article will focus upon those whose personalities are characterized the majority of the time by hateful, rude, or spiteful behavior. The fictional curmudgeon Ebenezer Scrooge, prior to his Christmas transformation, is a good example of a mean-spirited person in A Christmas Carol.
Mean-spiritedness is part of our fallen sinful nature (Romans 3:10, 23; 8:5). We are born selfish with a desire to gratify ourselves at any expense.
Depending upon the effectiveness of our early training, we may learn more socially acceptable ways of interacting with others, but we can still behave in hateful, mean-spirited ways due to the inability to control our own evil tendencies (Romans 7:14–20). Mean-spirited people are not pleasant to be around, so we learn to curb some of those selfish impulses in order to be more popular. However, there are some who don’t care what anyone thinks, and they keep their mean-spirited actions on public display.
The Bible has a lot to say about being mean-spirited and the fact that it dominates the lives of many who reject God. Jesus offers a makeover for us when we give our lives to Him. Although rare in its most extreme form, most of us cherished a milder strain of misanthropy before we knew Jesus. Hatred of others is part of our fallen, selfish sin natures. But when the Holy Spirit moves into a repentant heart, misanthropy has to go. Jesus changes misanthropes into those who love others.
Second Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” One of those “old things” that are passed away is our mean-spirited nature. Jesus spent much of His earthly ministry talking about a new way of conducting ourselves. Matthew 5 includes a list of character traits that God finds desirable in us. Verses 5–12 are known as the Beatitudes, and they highlight the behaviors that should characterize followers of Christ.
Christlike living is in direct opposition to a mean spirit. To highlight some differences:
• Our mean spirit wants to get revenge; Jesus says to forgive (Matthew 6:14–15).
• Our mean spirit wants to exalt itself; Jesus says to seek humility (Matthew 23:12).
• Our mean spirit wants to be first; Jesus says we are blessed if we choose to be last (Mark 9:35).
• Our mean spirit wants to fight; Jesus says, “Blessed are the peacemakers” (Matthew 5:9).
• Our mean spirit wants to gossip; the Bible says to guard our mouths (Proverbs 13:3).
• Our mean spirit is rude; Jesus says our speech should be gracious (Colossians 4:6).
A mean-spirited person is living opposite of what the Bible teaches. Often, the reason a person remains mean-spirited is because he does not know how to live otherwise. It may feel natural to be rude and hostile if one was raised in a rude and hostile environment. But to meet Jesus is to enter a new world, one in which it is impossible to live without His Holy Spirit (Galatians 2:20). When we allow the Holy Spirit free rein in our lives, He can transform even the most mean-spirited person into a Spirit-filled disciple.