When it came to jerks I used to think “just you wait … someday you’ll die and then see the video of your life and realize what a jerk you are – and then you’ll feel really bad”. No anymore. Maybe it’s cynicism, growing pragmatism, or maybe I just don’t care anymore, or perhaps justice just isn’t so important to me anymore. Regardless, I don’t think the after-life will provide any chances for smugness.
Chances are that if someone does get a complete overview of thier life after they die, they’ll still think they were in the right when they weren’t. Regardless of their eternal destination they will probably be self-satisfied wherever they are, as they would eventually feel uncomfortable spending eternity with people who were better than them. Besides, although justice may be met, those who plan on feeling smug about it probably will suffer justice for their unrighteous desire to be smug.
I’ve also gone through the pathetic “I know you’re a jerk, and knowing that is good enough for me” phase, and the spiteful “just you wait, what comes around goes around” phase. Both perspectives provide hollow solace though, and they’re both just a little despicable.
But we all observe this, right? You see the victims of henious crimes and they fall into one of two groups – those who seek revenge, and those who don’t. The second group, the “forgivers” who can let go of feelings for revenge, are a rarity because forgiveness for henious acts is so contrary to our nature as human beings. I don’t think any other species does that, although they may carry out vengeful acts out of anger I don’t think it is out of a need to implement justice in order to maintain a certain order or balance. That is a uniquely human need.
But those who master their desire for revenge seem to be the only ones who can carry-on without being consumed with anger. I don’t know if I could do that in some circumstances and I never want to find out if I could.
So why am I rambling on about this? Because it’s a constant daily struggle with me and I wish it wasn’t. I wish I was entirely selfless simply because those who are selfless seem to be the most at peace with the world. And yet that seems strange that my desire for selflessness stems from a selfish desire to be at peace with the world.
Somewhere in there I know that love plays a critical if not the central part. The scriptures certainly seem to indicate that and real life examples of peaceable people all seem to bear that out. And it’s hard to love a jerk, or a person who acts like a jerk. How do you do it?
I had a close freind who was at peace with the world and once he said to me that when dealing with jerks he’d look into their eyes and try to see them as a sibling and say in his heart “I love you”. He said that when he did that his composure changed, enough so that the “jerk” naturally responded in like manner and there were able to find common ground and the “jerk” wasn’t so much a jerk anymore. Of course you have to be in person for this technique to work – and with email, and phone calls, that technique just isn’t possible.
Indeed we’re all jerks about one thing or another, and in every case selfishness seems to be the root cause of it. Which of course makes sense since selfishness is the opposite of love-motivated selflessness.
Stephen Covey says the key to dealing with jerks (not in so many words) is to first seek to understand then seek to be understood. I’ve found that works almost always, but not if the other person doesn’t trust your sincerity. Covey then says to not expect a reciprocation and to even make it clear that you don’t expect any reciprocation on their part – only that you want to understand them, above all other things. Again, the principle enabling this whole technique is a disarming display of selflessness.
It never fails to amaze me how many salespeople are jerks. Apparently being a jerk produces results so for many of them it becomes the modus operandi. Same goes for many managers. Covey’s approach often seems to work with them, but when it doesn’t it’s time to move on.
The worst thing to do though is to lower yourself to their level and be a jerk yourself. It simply provides no useful long term results, even if the short term results are temporarily satisfying.
Okay enough of my rambling. Time to take my own medicine (I’m dealing with some jerks right now).