Jerks. They have an assole aura about them no one quite understands. Is it their childhood? Are they just having a bad day, for like the six-thousandth day in a row? Or maybe it’s something exclusively annoying about your face.
Say what you will about them, behaviour science’s radical right know how to bring out the worst in us.
While it seems like the world is flooded with sanity meltdowns, most of us actually share a neurosis for kindness, which is a far worse a problem.
If jerks are annoying, what truly pisses people off is their kindness not having an impact. And by impact, I mean the expectation that everyone will be automatically nice to you just because you are putting in all the effort to be nice to them.
“Why can’t they fake it, too?”
This obsession with kindness means you are an expert at picking out jerks and get high off the self-hatred when you are one yourself. In our closest relationships, we are jerks to each other all the time, but that doesn’t bother us.
The people we really care about are the strangers who walk in and out of our lives like a pair of smelly socks. The way they treat us lingers on long after they’ve left.
But in the attempt to understand the jerk psyche, we have romanticized it. Jerks have become fearful no-nonsense visionaries instead of the crazed insecure shitbags that they are. And we perpetrate jerks by selling out our conscience in the face of wealth backed authority backed intelligence backed bullshit — you know, the ingredients of originality. Also how we perpetrate religion but whatever.
What’s truly batshit bizarre is our reaction when a jerk behaves normally:
“Thank you for calling me by the right name today and asking me how I am, I think I am about to cry, and I love you, too.”
Did you just have an orgasm? You know this has nothing to do with you, right? Just like people treating you badly had nothing to do with you.
It’s about them.
In order to retain our identity for kindness, we begin to glorify what’s normal and normalize being treated like shit. Nice guys don’t finish last because jerks take all the top spots. They finish last so they can stay true to some dumb dictum because that’s how far they will go to prove their nicety.
Jerks aren’t a recent phenomenon. For the most part, they have stayed true to their ability to stay shit-faced all the time. Kindness though has gone from the capacity to feel compassion to the capacity to get people to like you. It’s become about you. It’s why impressing a jerk feels particularly good. The real jerks now are people who use kindness to get people to like them.
And the kindest thing you can do to these people is calling them out on their bullshit.
If you are being kind in the hope that people will change, you will grow hopeless with disappointment.
If the trust in your ability to be kind is formed by how much kindness you deserve, your relationship with kindness will be one where you are cheating on yourself.
If someone being a dick is all it takes to make you feel weak and hateful, it’s won’t be long before you turn into a jerk yourself.
Your kindness has to come from a place of strength. It’s not a random act. It’s a conscious choice. The bravest.