I’ve heard the phrase “protect your peace” tossed around in self-development circles. It sounds good, but protecting my peace makes it seem like I have it hidden away somewhere, behind lock and key, where no one can get to it. That’s no way to live.
I consider myself a nice person. I hold doors for people. I say, “thank you” and “God bless you.” I’ll have dinner with people at the restaurant of their choice where the only thing on the menu I can eat is the dry house salad without cheese. I swerve to avoid hitting animals in the road, I even stop sometimes to help a turtle get to the other side. By the way, do you ever wonder why the question isn’t, “why did the turtle cross the road?” I’ve never once seen a chicken in traffic. Anyway, I’m a nice person. I really and truly am. At least I like to think so.
But, sometimes, I can be an asshole. Not all the time and not to everyone, but I’m willing to bet that at least once every few days someone thinks “what an asshole” about me. It might be due to the impatient tapping or heavy sigh as I count the 20 items in their cart when the sign clearly says 15. It may be the irritated way I say, “I need to speak to your manager.” It may be when I swerve across two lanes of traffic to get to my exit or when I roll over in bed and take more than my share of the blankets. Yes, I can be a real asshole. Sometimes, it is not even conscious, like the blanket thing (that’s my story).
But mostly I’m a nice person. I bet we can say the same about you. Mostly you are a decent person, right? You go to work, pay your taxes, drop some coins in a street vendor’s cup. You’re reading my blog, which I appreciate (even though you may be wondering why I had to use the word “asshole” instead of something like “jerk” or “big fat meanie”). The answer is because I try to stay authentic to myself on this blog, and that’s the word I normally use in real life. Also, my mother is no longer here to wash my mouth out with soap. I’m not proud of it, but there it is. People who can be assholes sometimes, also sometimes use the word “asshole.”
But enough about me, let’s get back to you. We’ve established that you are a nice person, but that you, too, can be an asshole. Sometimes, you say “excuse me” in a way that really means “get the Hell out of my way.” Sometimes, you don’t take your shopping cart back to the corral, you just let it loose like a pet you no longer want and pretend you don’t notice it veering toward another person’s car (another NICE person’s car). Once, you failed to tell the cashier that she forgot to scan the case of water under your cart and you walked out knowing you didn’t pay for that water (in plastic bottles, no less, you asshole).
So, here’s the thing. Both you and I are prone to the occasional assholiness (yeah, I made up that word). That being the case, it makes sense the rest of the world is, too. I’m not talking about evil or wicked people; we know who they are. I’m not talking about child molesters, murders, thieves, or politicians. I am talking about your average Joann just trying to get through her day. Mostly, she’s lovely. But sometimes she is not. Because let’s face it; nobody can keep up with the nice all the time. It’s just not feasible. Plus, those people we have never caught in the act of their assholiness are exhausting to be around anyway, right? Too much of a good thing is too much, even too much nice.
But too much of a bad thing is also too much. If you’re like me when another person is an asshole it creates a trigger reaction. It could be a tit for tat response, or it might just hurt my feelings and send me spiraling down into a tunnel of poor self esteem or, even worse, bring back memories of 7th grade. Can we all just agree that 7th grade was the worst? My experience with 7th grade was just two types of people, assholes and their victims.
We should just accept that each of us is going to have a bad day on the regular. We will act poorly toward someone else. We are going to do it; it is just a matter of time. It might be a total stranger, but more likely it will be someone we care about. We tend to take those we love most for granted, we dismiss them, or just pretend we didn’t see their text for like a week until we suddenly need something and then it’s all, “Oh, I’m sorry, I never saw your text. Can you go pick up JoJo from the groomer for me?” Or something like that. We should be able to answer such a thing with a simple “OK, asshole” without repercussion.
People can be assholes, as can I. We are even. I’m at peace with that.