From Excellence to Jerk (How to Tell If You’re a Bigot)

About a month ago I went on a date. The guy took me to a trendy restaurant filled with young, energetic hipsters.

“It’s too crowded in here,” he said, shrinking back to avoid touching a man who brushed by him. “I don’t like being around a lot of people. Let’s go somewhere more quiet.”

Seemed like a reasonable request.

We found another, quieter restaurant and sat down at a table. He grabbed my hand and said, “I really like you. And I don’t like most people.”

Uh oh. My internal alarm bells went off.

He spent the next hour explaining how the whole world had gone crazy. He told me about his ex’s flaws (which mostly consisted of her lack of sophistication) and how most people simply are not smart, morally grounded or level-headed. “I need someone special,” he said. “Someone who I can trust not to do stupid things.”

Then he went on to explain his system for selecting clients. He first based it on the cost of their watch, then the car they drove, and finally on the refinement of their table manners (if someone was gauche enough to hold the wine glass by the glass instead of the stem, he was not worth dealing with).

And then it was a rant about his last plane ride and how claustrophobic he felt being surrounded by hard-breathing, coughing people.

The food came out. He chastised the waiter because his steak was not properly cooked. A woman at the table next to us laughed loudly. He rolled his eyes.

Once we finished dinner, he handed me a small bottle of anti-bacterial hand sanitizer he kept with him. You never know what kinds of diseases you could pick up from the general population.

I declined. “I think a little dirt is good for you,” I said.

I could see the vein in his forehead pulsating with annoyance. He slowly put the bottle of sanitizer back in his pocket. (A deal-breaker, perhaps?)

First Impressions

There are certain people I dislike for no good reason. They just have the wrong look or vibe or something. It’s the Sarah Palin voice effect. I can never take her seriously because of that voice. It’s not rational. But as soon as I heard that voice for the first time, my dislike snapped into place.

Unconditionally loving everyone can be tough.

Over time, I have attempted to cultivate this love. (Although Sarah Palin may be out of luck.) Even people with distasteful behavior or pessimistic attitudes have become a curiosity to me. I start to wonder what happened in their childhood or what causes them to act out the way they do and then I feel compassion. I may not invite them to dinner parties, but I have no problem sending love their way.

It wasn’t always like this. I used to be a lot less tolerant and way more judgmental. I viewed people through my filter of over achievement and “moral” choices. But now that I’m a bit older and wiser (hopefully), that’s changed. The more I acknowledge my own flaws, the more I feel like I can’t judge anyone. Everyone fights a battle.

Enough with the Flowers and Rainbows… What About the Real Jerks?

Let’s say you’re walking down the street and you walk by a hundred people who either smile or say hello or ignore you. And then the last guy you walk by flips you off, criticizes you for wearing a pink tie and screams profanities.

That guy is a jerk. A genuine, Grade A jerk.

And I wouldn’t blame you for responding with a similar birdie-finger-accompanied insult. (Although, you’re much too enlightened for that sort of thing.)

Jerks exist. We can’t pretend like they are rare unicorns we never run into. There are people who display jerk-ish behavior all the time.

It’s easy to point out a jerk.

But… how do you know when you’re being the jerk?

The Bigot Test

My date didn’t view himself as a jerk. He viewed himself as an extremely moral man with standards of excellence. One of the “special” people.

It can be hard to self-evaluate. On the one hand, you have certain beliefs and values you hold dear. On the other hand, people have the right to be respected for their choices even if you’d never make the same ones.

Here’s how you can tell if your quest for inner-excellence has actually turned you into a bigoted jerk:

It’s easy. If everyone around you is a moron, you’re the jerk. If only one person acts like a moron in a sea of many wonderful, diverse people, he’s the jerk.

That’s it.

Whenever I make generalist remarks, like, “Everyone in L.A. is so fake.” Or “No one cares about the work as much as I do.” (when selecting employees) Or “Everyone is a terrible driver!”

I try to catch myself… who’s being the jerk now?

All my love,

Laura

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Showing 2 comments
  • Adam Allred
    Reply

    Thank you for the great read! When you said that he viewed himself as ‘special’ (above others, and not held to the same standards), I immediately thought of Raskolnikov from Crime and Punishment. At least he didn’t come at you with an axe!

    • admin
      Reply

      Thanks Adam! The hand sanitizer was enough 😉

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