Friday, August 02, 2013

Self Assessment: It's not all it's cracked up to be

I spent some time reading some of my past posts the other day. It started as a project of finding some past information that I've posted and ran into a hour or more of just enjoying some of my past reads. In one post from last month I linked to four previous posts that are about me. In re-reading them, I noticed that I'm a pretty good guy. Feel free to go read them. There is a lot of good stuff there. There is also plenty of stuff missing.

Truthfully, I'm not all that grand. We seldom come clean about our dark tendencies in self evaluation. If given an anonymous opportunity to point out my faults, I'm pretty certain my friends and family could come up with a list that would be long. If not long, at least emphatic about the negative traits on a shorter list.

It's not too difficult to be a nice guy at church. There is a certain expectation that people at church be...well, nice. And since we're only around church people for a couple of hours per week, how hard is it to throw on a fake "nice" persona for a couple of hours? Piece of cake, right?

What about work? Work is a little bit different in that some people appear to want to be jerks at work. I'd say that it's a pretty easy environment to be a jerk and a not so easy environment to be a nice person if being nice is still an act. It's more difficult to be nice because there are people that are not nice. At church, at least everyone is either nice or pretending to be nice. At work, there is more of the survival of the fittest, dog eat dog mentality that gives us permission to act without regard to others. Some meanness is in response to a previous act of meanness and will, of course, demand an additional mean response until everybody acknowledges mutual hatred for one another and agrees to live in relatively peaceful hatred with only an occasional jerk action to remind everybody that the contempt still exists.

Yeah, sometimes it reminds me of kids on the playground where bullies get away with bullying because everybody knows that nobody is going to do anything.  In any case, our work personas can be our work personas and they don't necessarily mean that we are like that outside of the work place. If it's an act, it does require us to be a better actor than the church actor because we're at work more than we are at church. Our work personality is probably a better indicator of who we really are than our church personality.

Not too long ago, a co-worker said that I was a nice person. The truth is that I have to work very hard at just not being a jerk. Of course, the comment came from one of the "nice" people and nice people are easier to be nice to and more forgiving when you are not.

I think there are a lot of bad actors out there--both at church and at work. It may be that I am one of them. It's pretty easy to write a post that inflates good qualities and claim them as the real you for readers that don't really know you and never interact with you outside of the blogosphere. It's not too difficult to fool a few people for a few hours a week at church. It's certainly possible to shield coworkers from your true personality and keep them outside of your life away from the work place. It's pretty impossible to fool the people that you live with.

Unfortunately, the people we love the most are also the people that get to see our ugliness the most. If there were ever people that could testify to the poor qualities of character that are mine, it would be my family. Sorry, guys. I'm still a jerk--working on it, but still a jerk.

Maybe it would be easier if everybody just realized it. Most people are self-centered jerks. Most people really don't care about our lives and only pretend to be interested in our stories about our kids/family/hobbies/whatever, so that they can tell you about there meaningless lives--which you probably don't care about, either.

Are there really people that are "nice people" in the world?
Yes! I believe there are.
And I believe that I know many genuinely nice people.
I believe there are also a great number of people that really want to be nice people--people (like me) that have to work very hard at not being a jerk all of the time.

I think that these are the people that make me smile. Maybe it's because there is a sort of kinship with them. Maybe knowing their struggle makes it easier to forgive their transgressions. Maybe seeing their "niceness" gives me hope that the good guys are holding their own in a world full of jerks that are waiting to help them fail and then laugh as they struggle to regain lost ground.

These are my people. We are jerks, but we don't like it. We are working on being nicer people. Please have patience with us. I realize that we don't deserve your patience and we haven't cut you any breaks in the past. But remember, you're better that we are. You are the nice people.

Recovering jerk, apprentice "nice" guy,
John <><


Bilbo said...

I like to think of myself as a "nice guy," but I'm realistic enough to realize that I have as big a strain of jerk inside as anyone else. I think I usually manage to contain the jerk pretty well, unless I'm driven to releasing him by the stupidity of others ... but then I usually don't like myself afterwards. You are not alone.

Mike said...

How can a Ted Drews groupie be a jerk? Well maybe that one time you pushed your way to the front of the line but you needed your TD fix BAD.

Christoper said...