Please note: This post isn’t aimed at or inspired by any specific individuals or events. It’s just a personal philosophy/life viewpoint kind of things.
It’s true. People don’t like to talk about it but Every. Single. Person. IS. an Asshole. They just are. We can’t help it.
Typically you hear about the goodness of humanity. Every time you turn around there’s another dewy eyed optimist talking about the inherent kindness of people as individuals and as a whole. Random acts of kindness. Paying it forward. These popular ideas emphasize it. Well, I’m here to tell you, if everyone can be good or has good in them then ,by default, everyone can also be “bad” or do mean, big fat jerk things. And everyone does. Everyone. I’m not exempt, you’re not exempt, and that really awesome person feeding the homeless over there isn’t either. Yes, even Mr. or Ms. Give All My Free Time to charity, the greater good, and helping others is an asshole. Maybe less of one than some other people (or maybe they’re a bigger asshole than most and are compensating),but still, even they are an asshole too.
Around Christmas time, just a few months ago, I was in the drive-through line at Panera. I usually don’t buy food on the go, especially not
anything other than McDonald’s or Taco Bell decent stuff but I had a gift card and a breakfast sandwich sounded really good after work. As I pulled up to the window to give the girl my card she told me, in her perky morning person customer service voice, that the customer in front of me had paid for my order. She looked at me all bright eyed and expectant. There was a pregnant pause. Then I put my gift card away and accepted my free food. I know she was waiting for me to “pay it forward” and “keep the chain of kindness going” but, dammit, that’s my gift card and I’m not using it on some asshole who probably makes twice what I do just because someone else paid for my breakfast. Besides, they probably ordered a sandwich and a coffee. I’m not taking that chance…that’s bullshit!
It’s a little thing, but I was definitely an asshole in that situation. Usually my asshole nature shines through on little things but sometimes I go big too. I won’t deny it, I can be an asshole.
I think my son summed it up pretty well in a note he wrote to a classmate who had been giving him a hard time. When the other kid called him a “damn jerk” it was the last straw so he wrote the kid a letter. It went something like this:
Dear So-and-So,You’ve been really mean to me and my friends. Just leave us alone. You’re an ass… But I guess now I’m an ass too.
You see, my then eight-year-old boy got it. The other kid was being an asshole and deserved to have that pointed out but then by calling him an ass he was being an asshole too. Yup, we’re all jerks.
Of course, my son was the jerk who got in trouble when the teacher found the note but he learned an important lesson…If you’re going to cuss out another kid at school, don’t put it in writing.
Another way of saying it, the way my co-blogger usually puts it, everybody is somebodys villain. Maybe that’s a little nicer.
When I meet new people I basically assume right off that they are going to be an asshole on some level, it’s just a question of what level. The question isn’t if just how much and in what way. Are you a giant asshole all the time? That might be a deal breaker and maybe I don’t want to talk to you or be around you if that’s the case. It just depends on if I can live with your asshole qualities…and, of course, if you can live with mine. When I do business with companies and people the possibility (and sometimes probability) that they are trying to rip me off is something I’m very aware of. Maybe that makes me cynical, I’m pretty sure it just means I’m realistic. If you give people the benefit of the doubt you are bound to be disappointed a good percentage of the time. Why not just acknowledge that people are assholes and expect that to be the case? Then when someone is not or is even pleasant, honest, and kind it’s a great surprise. I mean, look, you expected them to be a jerk and they’re not. There are so few good surprises as an adult; being realistic with your expectations creates more opportunity for good surprises.
We all have an inner twelve year old trying to be a selfish jerk all the time. It makes everyone behave like an asshole at least some of the time. That’s okay. Without a little assholeness the good just doesn’t seem as good. It’s all about contrast and perspective.
( And now a bit of shameless self-promotion: If you like this, check out a post I wrote last year about low expectations that’s along the same lines.)