After attending my Vipassana, I realised that I had missed a huge opportunity in my previous “how to deal with jerks” article.
There is a third way to deal with jerks other than giving them nothing, or giving them a response they neither want nor expect (even those these are excellent ways to empower yourself, and not take on the problems of other people).
We can give them love and compassion.
One thing I know for certain in this world is that nobody who is truly thriving and secure in themselves, treats other people like trash. Treating other people like trash is a clear signal to the rest of the world that “I am not okay.”
Sure, we can say “well just because you’re unhappy doesn’t mean you should bring other people down, so get out of my life” – and we have every right to take this road. In some situations in fact, we absolutely should respond like this. But what is harder, and the sign of a truly strong, courageous and compassionate person, is to acknowledge the pain that person must be experiencing, and to send them love and compassion regardless of what a jerk they are.
It’s a simple equation that we understand intellectually, yet find virtually impossible to actually do on the experiential level:
Acknowledge jerk behaviour -> Acknowledge they must feel pain inside -> Respond compassionately.
It’s often a fine line between being what others might consider to be a “pushover” and being an endlessly compassionate and optimistic person. However, there is a clear distinction between these two states of mind that must be addressed: a “pushover” bends to the will of jerks because they are often missing the confidence to lean into conflict, or have been socialised to do what jerks tell them due to a dysfunctional upbringing. They may also simply despise or fear conflict, which is very normal and understandable. The “pushover” generally beats themselves up internally for bending to the will of others, and often finds this to be a point of issue with themselves. The “pushover” often has low self-esteem.
The compassionate person on the other hand, treats jerks with respect and empathy because they are self-secure. They have great confidence in themselves, and are at peace internally. Because they are okay with who they are, even proud of who they are, they don’t pick and choose who is subjected to their compassion, empathy and generosity – they simply do it because to them, it is the right thing to do. It is a value for them that is cross-contextual, can be applied anywhere and to anyone.
The compassionate person will not hold resentment, or ill-will, or disgust to the person who is an unbearable jerk, even verging on sociopathic, who is constantly ranting and raving and abusing and bullying. They’ll likely think something along the lines of “how sad to see such a lost soul destroy themselves” – and that pity will often drive them to be kind and helpful. They compassionate person generally has high self-esteem.
If you are not ready to put this into practice (I know I certainly have difficulties with it) we can take the softer approach. This approach is a combination of what I have spoken of in this article and in my previous article on dealing with jerks, and is quite simple. The next time you see jerk behaviour, just think “pain.”
Acknowledge that when someone is being a jerk they cannot possibly be thriving, because people who are thriving almost always treat other people with respect. We see a jerk, we think “pain.” That jerk must be in pain. That jerk must not have peace inside, at least in this moment. Even though they are bringing pain to other people’s lives, I know the pain they bring themselves must be even more intense.
And if the biggest jerk in your life is a rich and powerful person who must be thriving, even though they treat others like trash? Read my article on success – and show them love and compassion anyway. Acknowledge the feelings of despise, jealousy and envy but do not act on them, otherwise you are giving your own power to them. Acknowledge that even though someone appears to be thriving, you only know their behaviour – you have no ability to read their minds or understand what must be happening internally for them.
Let's treat all beings with respect, love and compassion. Jerk or not.