Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Just Don't Be a Jerk

When you're out in the world, interacting with society, this should be the absolute bare minimum:

Just don't be a jerk.

This could be online. It could be with strangers in the store. It could be with neighbors. It could be with family.

We've all got our own stresses, our own buttons that can be pushed. Sometimes, we make an active decision to be a jerk, because selfishness gets in the way of good sense, or someone was a jerk to us, so we feel we can go ahead and toss it out. Sometimes, we lose ourselves and our focus, and we're an accidental jerk.

But honestly, neither is ok. It's just not. You're not going to get anything good, not long term anyway, from being a jerk.

Maybe it's parking. Your neighbor parked in front of your house, blocking your mailbox, and you feel the need to pay them back in kind and block THEM in. Or maybe you don't do a direct retaliation, but when the opportunity comes up to be neighborly, you opt out, choosing to make their life a little harder. Payback, you might think. Or maybe it's a stranger in a crowded lot, at the height of holiday shopping. They squeezed their car in next to yours, and now you can barely get your body inside. So you decide that if they decided to be a jerk parking, you can give them the ding on the door they so obviously deserve.

Maybe it's online. Yeah, people tend to be super jerky about big topics - politics or vaccines or (ironically) bullying, but sometimes it's the little ones, topics that no one should feel all that passionately about, that attract jerky behavior. It's the time of year when seemingly calm parenting groups get all flush with arguments about the Elf on the Shelf. If you go all in, or if you don't do it at all, chances are you've either been a jerk, or you've had to deal with one. You feel like it's ok to be a jerk online, because it's an obvious right/wrong, and the other side is probably being a jerk right back.

Interesting anecdotal evidence - it is almost always the anti-Elf parents, not the over the top ones, who are behaving like jerks. The judgy, superior, smug, doesn't matter whose feelings I hurt, even a preschooler is fair game, attitude, usually the domain of the "sanctimommy", is taken on in a big way by anti-Elfers. They will mock, they will post hundreds of anti-Elf memes, they will let it be known that they are making the obvious "right" choice, and they judge you hard if you don't join in with the mocking. They might be totally normal and judgement free from January to mid-November, but those last six weeks of the year they go full jerk. Yes, I know. Not everyone. But still, I've found far more jerky bullying from the anti-Elf contingent. 

Really, it could be anywhere, with anything. You feel stressed, you feel wronged, you feel like if you AREN'T a jerk, you'll be taken advantage of, so why not?

But here's the thing.

Even if it works for you in the short term - you feel like you got even, you feel like you got what you deserved, you feel like you proved yourself right....you didn't really win.

Because people remember. 

Negative energy, put out into the world, will create more negative energy. Maybe it'll come to you directly, maybe it'll come to you indirectly, but jerky behavior invites more.

I have found that the most powerful "revenge" is turning it backwards.

Your neighbor blocked you in? Shovel their sidewalk when you're out doing yours.

Someone tries to start a fight online? Take a deep breath and scroll by. Or defend someone (in a non jerky way) who is being attacked.

Someone is rude to you? Be extra kind back to them.

No, it probably won't be Disney movie experience, where the jerk immediately apologizes and you become best friends. But jerky behavior can't thrive in an atmosphere of positivity.

So just don't be a jerk.
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