Just One Little Brick

It’s time to go to to the land of metaphor.

Let us imagine that you are walking down the street. A stranger comes up to you. He is carrying a brick.

This person seems to recognize you. He calls you by name, mentions some work that you did yesterday at your place of employment, and expresses the opinion that in light of your efforts, you deserve a brick. He hands the brick to you. He walks away.

Taken in isolation, the incident doesn’t seem like a big deal, does it? After all, it’s one person. It’s just one brick. You can carry it just as easily as the stranger could, and now his step is a little lighter, and he’s expressed himself. No problem.

You continue to walk down the street. A woman walks by with a brick in her hand. She wants to tell you what she thinks of the clothes you’re wearing; she hands you her brick and walks away before you can respond.

Now you have two bricks. Are you strong enough to carry two bricks? Of course. You have two hands. You’re not some sort of wimp that can’t carry a brick or two, are you? Of course not.

Another stranger walks by. Another brick. And then another. And another. And another. You’re carrying six bricks now. They feel a teensy bit heavy, actually. You’ve got a long way to walk and you’re starting to wonder how long you have to carry all six of them. You’re not the type to feel sorry for yourself, but you can’t help wondering–is there a reason people keep handing you bricks?

Nevertheless, you keep walking. But maybe, just maybe, as you walk on, you become a little more wary. If you see someone who is obviously carrying a brick, you start to edge away from them before they can really get near you. Because honestly, you don’t need another brick.

Despite your caution, a few people manage to fool you by hiding the bricks behind their backs or in their handbags and then dumping them on you when you didn’t expect it. Some of them actually walk beside you for a few minutes and pretend to have a real conversation and then whip a brick out of their jackets and load it on you and run. This is actually a little…bewildering. You’re almost amazed at the ingenuity and determination of these bricklayers, even while you resent the weight of their bricks.

By now you’re carrying what, thirty bricks? Forty? These things are getting heavy. Really effing heavy.

Your parents raised you to be a strong person. You think, I can do this. I’m tough. You go through the bricks and you drop at least a few of them, thinking that perhaps they weren’t really meant for you, or that the people who gave them to you weren’t important, or aren’t watching you any more. But all these bricks are really starting to slow you down. You’re wondering how much further you can possibly walk carrying such a burden.

And of course, because you are a complete saint and possibly have a martyr complex, it doesn’t occur to you that you could just start handing out the bricks yourself. You could just run from stranger to stranger and unload them on everyone you see, until you feel lighter.

Nevertheless, you do get a little edgy, if only for the sake of survival. Eventually someone comes up to you and your response is “EFF OFF. I WILL NOT TAKE YOUR BRICK.”

And you know what the bricklayer says, at that moment?

He says, “Wow, are you over-sensitive! I am just one little person! With one little brick. You can’t handle even ONE brick? Just one little brick? What kind of weakling are you?”

Criticism is a brick.

Negativity toward another human being–regardless of what your negative opinion is about–is a burden.

When you pass on negative feedback to another person, you are handing them a brick. You expect them to take that brick from you and even carry it, at least for a while. You were born with the belief that your bricks have great value–greater value than those of other people, even. You were born believing that your bricks should be carried, if you choose to bestow them on someone.

You want others to give your opinions weight.

Well, I’ve got news for you. Everybody’s got a brick. Everybody’s got a beef. Everybody has issues, opinions, and Bad Brain Days. And while there’s no doubt that it can be satisfying to unload on another human being, especially in what you assume will be a consequences-free environment like the Internet… you also cannot forget that it’s a human being on the other side of the exchange.

Human beings are not weak creatures, but they are not designed to carry an infinite number of bricks. And dealing with your negativity may not be an isolated incident for the person in front of you. Some of the people you meet have already taken a few bricks. Some of them have probably taken a lot of bricks.

There are seven billion people on this planet, folks. Seriously? You thought you were the only one with a brick?

You thought you were the only one who had something negative and crappy to say?

Next time you find yourself with a brick in your hand, THINK before you hand it to another person. Especially if you’re being negative for a really generic reason. Because I hate to break this to you, but some of your bricks are actually…


In fact, it’s possible that the majority of your negative opinions, very much like bricks in real life, are actually mass-produced.

How many times a day, a week, a month, a year, a lifetime, do you think an overweight person needs to get a brick for being overweight?

How many times does a non-white person need to take a brick for being non-white?

How many bricks do girls and women deserve to carry because they’re female?

How many times a day, a week, a month, do you think that a gay kid needs to take a brick for being gay? And do you think that maybe, possibly, the reason that so many gay kids commit suicide is that their arms are already full of bricks by the age of twelve or fourteen, that they haven’t even achieved full adult strength yet, and yet they find themselves so weighted down that they can no longer move?

Do you think maybe they just don’t see any way that they can keep walking, if life is going to be NOTHING BUT PEOPLE WITH BRICKS?

There are factories designed to mass produce negative opinions. They go by various names, but they all perform the same function: they make bricks and they tell us we’re entitled to hand as many of them to other people as we want. Churches, schools, television and film studios, advertising firms, and political think tanks can all churn out a hell of a lot of baked clay.

Personally, I think that if you’re going to be handing out bricks, the least you can do is to hand-craft them and bake them yourself.

Better yet, try giving out something lighter. Most of the people you meet could use a little more…buoyancy. If criticism is a brick, compliments are more like balloons; problem is, a brick has a weight of 2.5 kilograms and a balloon has about 14 grams of lift.

Which means that it takes about 150 balloons to equal one brick.

Speaking of which, you are amazing and I love you.

Have a great day. πŸ˜‰

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About Arinn

Author, Game Developer, Anthropologist, Feminist, reformed Supervillainess.
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7 Responses to Just One Little Brick

  1. Aurora says:

    Thank you for this amazing message. It is so eye opening. Now after reading this, I am going to apologize to my boyfriend for all the dumb things I get on him about. I really feel terrible for all the things I’ve ever said about people who I am sure had already heard enough…

  2. Theresa Newton says:

    This is an important message. So many people say, “I say what I think. I’m being honest. People need to hear my honest opinion of their behavior.” when they’re just justifying handing out their bricks.

    I’m going to really focus on handing out balloons. Thank you!!

  3. Pandora Caitiff says:

    Thanks for the balloon πŸ™‚

    This is a brilliant metaphor. Thanks for sharing. I rate it up there with spoon theory. So I’ve shared this with all my friends

  4. Daniel says:

    Joining the land of metaphor…and thanks for letting us.

    Getting a brick does not necessarily mean that you have to carry it, unless you want to. Putting that brick on solid ground for example, you could start to stack more bricks on top of it and after that we could build something usefull. A foundation, walls and stairs perhaps?! At the end of the day we may have a brick house. A house that offers us an IN- and OUTSIDE, something we can enter and leave as we like, something that is a possibility for us to deal with those “brick giving buggers”. A house which we can change by taking bricks out or placing new once in. “Oh, a new brick?! Fine, I need a second floor.”
    A brick is a brick, but it is US who decide what to do with it and what it becomes – either a burden or a piece in a creative process on whose end you may find yourself – not necessarily stronger but knowing how to handle bricks and to live with, but without carrying them. Which lets you more power to give those compliments. πŸ™‚

    • Arinn says:

      It isn’t a perfect metaphor, to be certain. Bricks actually DO serve some useful purpose in construction. But you cannot build anything functional, useful or worthwhile out of human cruelty.

      • Daniel says:

        If we are talking about criticism and not just plain cruel mobbing then sure, each criticism can be part of an individual development process and therefore the brick metaphor does fit, even if it isnt perfect. The house is an extension of your own mental body, it serves as protection, as a gateway where you decide what you let in and what not. Its like a second skin, that you can wear whenever you see need.
        Building this second skin out of other peoples bricks, makes you “criticism hardened”. Not in a way that you become a stone emotional wise, but that you have learned how to convert the former negativity into something use- and helpfull.

        Nevertheless youΒ΄re right, for many people these bricks are a burden, because they never learned how to deal with them, neither by their parents, teachers, friends, close relatives or the society as a whole, but instead are often left alone with it.
        Ahh, there is so much more that plays into this topic that we could discuss about. But I guess I have to find an end. πŸ™‚
        Call me an optimist, but I do think that even human cruelty itself can be turned into something better – the striving to not unnecessarily be so. And isnt that a good foundation that you can build on – metaphorical?

        And now I enjoy my anniversary of German unification day.


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