How to handle it when people act like jerks
So...about that lady who screamed at us at the park the other day....
What if it were true that no matter how irrational or illogical it may appear to you—that all people are always—always—always doing their best?
You know that feeling when you get criticized for doing something you thought was right, or a good idea at the time — and even though it hurts to hear someone criticize you, what hurts more is them not seeing or appreciating the truth — that you really were doing the best you could with the energy, knowledge, resources, skills, support, and emotional bandwidth you had at the time?
(And have you ever noticed that it hurts worse when you’re the one criticizing yourself?)
2 nights ago we wanted to take Aspen to a new dog park. We’d been told by a park employee it was open. We arrived to see we’d have to walk through a gated playground to get to the dog park. Weird, but whatever.
As we crossed through the gate, a woman began screaming at us to leave—saying no dogs were allowed. We were taken aback and just smiled, thinking “Huh, no problem. She must not see the dog park.”
So we told her “oh don’t worry we are just headed to the dog park.”
She continued to yell and act very rudely, getting other parents riled up and involved, making a scene in front of lots of kids.
But we pressed on and just let her scream, a bit confused, but not wanting to get involved.
As it turns out, the dog park was closed—permanently. And there was a sign on the fence that we didn’t see until we left that said “no dogs in the playground.” 😬🙈🤷🏼♀️
We had been given confusing information by an employee (who probably also didn’t know any better). We hadn’t seen the sign. Truthfully we had “broken the rule.”
Nobody was hurt, no children or dogs were harmed.
But we thought we were doing the right thing.
We were doing our best.
But here’s the thing.
💕So was she. She was doing her best, too.💞
Sure. The “punishment” (yelling and screaming and causing a scene) may not exactly have fit the “crime” (not knowing the dog park was closed and not seeing the posted rules and thus looking potentially like we were blatantly ignoring them!)
But we don’t know her story or her state of life or being.
She likely thought she was doing the right thing too (otherwise why would she do it?).
There’s not an ounce of my being that believes the story that “people are jerks” or “some people are just mean.”
No. All people are loved and lovable. Even when they yell and scream or when they ignore playground signs.
We all disagree. We all do things that aren’t glamorous.
Sometimes it’s innocent and naive. Other times we do nonglamorous things because we have had a crap day or we are like every other human—carrying around a lot of baggage we’ve been shoving away (most of which we have NO CLUE we are carrying) that sometimes pops up and explodes into nonglamorous behavior when we least expect it.
And sometimes also we do this when we expect it (you know what I’m taking about—when you know you’re in a mood and you’re not fit for human consumption but you open your mouth or do the thing or write the post anyway). 🙈
But careful—Just because you might be aware you’re doing something kinda mean—still doesn’t make you a bad person or mean that you’re wrong. You’re still doing the best you can.
Yes! For real!
And when we are on the receiving end of those things (or we perceive ourselves to be on the receiving end—even if nothing actually happened directly to us) — we usually make up stories and then act or react based on assumptions we make about people’s actions or behaviors.
We assume that their actions define who they are.
We assume that they are a mean person or are a rude person.
But that’s hardly true. What’s true is we never know the whole story about them or even about the action itself.
"Are" and "is' imply permanence.
But nobody is ever permanently mean or rude.
We tend to confuse the essence of a person ("who" or "what" they are on the soul level) with their actions--far to often:
"He's a cruel person."
"He is pure evil."
"She is selfish and manipulative."
"She is a narcissist."
"I am just disorganized."
"I am not smart."
"I am not good enough."
I cringe every time I read these things (happens so often on social media) because they simply aren't true, and when we say them, they are simply a reflection of what we actually think of ourselves.
Instead, consider that perhaps, people (including ourselves) embody different energies and states of consciousness depending on whatever context their life is taking on in any given moment.
I'm sure you've found yourself saying or doing things that were not reflective of who you were in your heart. We've all done it.
I challenge you to shift to say "I did something mean" rather than say "I am mean."
This implies that you aren't powerless and permanently damaged. You CAN change. You can make a different decision next time.
If you say you "are" something enough times about yourself or others, your soul may start to believe this non-truth.
And the problem with believing you ARE something implies you also believe you are not capable of change, or of being worthy of giving or receiving love.
All people are made from love and made of love, and worthy of love.
No matter what.
So if you're going to use "is" or "are" please, for the love of all that is truly sacred--tell the truth:
You ARE loved and lovable...AND you can simultaneously make choices you don't favor.
You ARE perfect just as you are...AND you can simultaneously do things that aren't aligned with the Highest good.
You ARE NOT and are NEVER your actions, choices, or roles. And if you have trouble remembering or believing this--I understand. It's a challenging lesson to wrap your head around sometimes, because we are brought up to believe we are what we do.
But we are human BEings, not human DOings.
On the playground that day, I made a special note in that moment to send her truck loads of extra love.
And also to send any love to myself. I didn’t buy in to taking it personally or allow her to ruffle my feathers.
I only felt deep compassion. And I chose a compassionate story to tell about her and myself.
Why choose a story?
Stories, by any other word, are thoughts and perceptions.
The human brain will always try to fill the gaps in understanding and certainty with a story — and usually a negative story that justifies and maintains why we might feel angry or hurt or frustrated or scared toward someone else.
This justification then gives us a payoff of being right, or better than, or being the martyr or the victim.
And it justifies the story that humans "ARE" permanently "bad."
You know what’s a better payoff?
True unconditional love.
Why not choose to practice love and acceptance for ALL beings regardless of whether they screw up or do something terrible or make an unfavorable statement or share an opinion you don’t agree with?
Yes, this includes what they write in social posts or articles people share or places they work or who they donate money to or what they wear or how they carry themselves or how they vote.
People are not their actions. They are not their opinions. They are not their beliefs.
We are all ONE, and all people just doing the best we can at the end of the day.
If dogs can love all beings unconditionally regardless of beliefs or actions—what makes us so special to think we are better than someone else, or that we are the judge of what’s “right?”
If people with disabilities who can't DO certain things are just as worthy of love as people who can--then what makes humans who DO certain "bad" things less worthy of love?
I challenge you to recontextualize the story you may tell about people's actions--a story that often just serves to justify and maintain the feelings of hurt or anger and thus the continuous unrest and lack of peace we often feel.
I challenge you to find a different, more loving and true story to tell.
In this example—
What if the woman or her child had been bitten by a dog?
What if her dog had recently died?
What if her dog had to be put down because it acted poorly toward a child?
If those stories were true, it certainly might explain why she acted how she did, and recontextualize the entire situation.
There is no right or wrong with that. Just understanding.
We don’t know anyone’s story. We can’t possibly ever know the full truth.
But if we're going to tell any story, we can choose to tell a more loving story and fill the gaps of uncertainty about them with attempts at compassion and acceptance.
Life is to short to walk around perpetuating our own negative emotions by telling perpetually non-true stories.
There is no such thing as right or wrong, good or bad--even in actions people take.
What’s right one day is wrong the next.
But unconditional love and acceptance are always in style.
How can you accept and love the truth that all people (including you) are doing their best—even when you don’t agree with their actions?
How can you let go of the tendency to argue and need to prove yourself right all the time, rather than seek to learn and understand a different perspective or the life situations and learnings that got someone where they are?
To be clear—I’m not saying you need to just lay down and allow people to exploit or abuse you. You can always set boundaries on what you are willing and not willing to subject yourself to.
But you don’t have to take anyone’s behavior or actions personally. That is always a choice—even when it feels challenging.
If you find this hard to wrap your head around or can’t see how to shift into love and acceptance for people with whom you disagree, or you think I'm positively out of my mind—its ok.
It’s not popular in this world right now to shift into love and acceptance. We certainly don’t have a lot of role models when instead we are encouraged to pick a side, take a stance, post an opinion, and be polarized.
And if you’re reading this and thinking “well crap, I’ve been the jerk who yells at people at playgrounds...or on social media...or I didn’t say anything out loud but I thought it in my head...”
Don’t worry. It’s ok. You have nott done anything wrong. You’re a human like the rest of us. You were just doing your best at the time. Hindsight’s 2020 and when you know better, you can do better. But you still may slip from time to time and in those moments, you still deserve love, not self judgment or punishment.
I’m happy to chat with you about this if you need support or want to find a way out.
This is what I coach clients with every day.
Maybe, for you, it's showing up in your relationships or interactions such as:
Trying to build a better, less toxic work environment for yourself or your colleagues
Trying to feel less stressed about being around people who drive you crazy
Trying to stop self sabotaging and beating the sh*t out of yourself every time you screw up
Finally drop the grudge or inadequacy feelings you have every time you see someone else succeed
Trying to figure out how to better communicate with your spouse, teen, or family members without constantly walking on eggshells or erupting in arguments
You are not alone if those resonate with you. And it's ok. I've been there too.
We can only love and forgive others as much as we are willing to unconditionally love and forgive ourselves.