Sunday, March 4, 2012
Jerks, Boundaries, Actions, Character...
The more I thought about her post, the more I examined my own tolerance for "jerks" in my life. I've talked before about my inability to maintain lasting relationships as well as my struggle to set boundaries in my life. I began to wonder if perhaps, though I never gave such a speech, my attitude in my younger years demanded people treat me like I deserved or get out of my life.
In my single days, I had a tendency to attract jerks with a few notable exceptions (okay, three in total). I had many, many male friends who were most definitely not jerks, but most of my romantic encounters were with jerks. My male friends always respected me and some even attempted romantic relationships, but I shied away from those entanglements. I think deep down I may have feared if a male friend went from friend to boyfriend, he'd turn into a jerk. Not exactly logical, but what can I say?
In a way, I think I tended to get involved with the jerks because being left by a jerk, or pushing a jerk away, felt easier than risking hurting a good guy. Besides some part of me questioned whether I deserved a good guy, so I never trusted it when good guys came along. Of course, this is hindsight. It's been a long time since I've been in this situation.
I realized while reading Kelly's post that the idea doesn't just apply to romantic relationships. It can also apply to the friends and colleagues in our lives.
We often make excuses for people. A friend recently excused away someone's behavior by saying the actions aren't the person. I disagreed to a degree. I see the point as well as the reason my friend needs to see it that way; however, actions are indicative of the person's character. People's actions are driven by their character. My friend pointed out that a person is capable of changing their actions, and that is true. People can also improve their character. I understood where my friend was coming from. My Mom always used to say "Hate the action, not the person." And, I get that in theory.
However, I still believe people are responsible for their actions and that character drives those actions. Which takes us back to the "jerk" Kelly talks about. When people treat other people badly, that behavior comes from somewhere in their character, especially if they consistently treat other people badly. Our actions reflect our character. Our character drives our actions. The two are intertwined.
All of us can learn something from Kelly, even those of us in relationships. If someone acts like a jerk, believe that person is a jerk. People's actions reflect their character. I'll say it again and again and again until we all understand it.
When we act in a way that honors our character, we are being true to ourselves. When our actions align with our character, we give the world our best. When we act like jerks, and we all do from time to time, we have to check ourselves and fix our behavior. That is why we sometimes see people act out of character or at least out of character according to our view of them. The idea that separates people from their actions allows us to care about others when their behavior isn't likeable. When we allow those people to continue to treat us badly by excusing their actions, we perpetuate their slide into becoming jerks. When we refuse to accept other people's bad behavior, it isn't about trying to change them. It's about honoring and loving ourselves enough to acknowledge that we deserve the best life has to offer. On the flip side of that, we have to offer others our best as well.
So, set your boundaries. Make your boundaries known. Don't let other people invade your boundaries but add enough flexibility into your boundaries to permit personal growth. Now, if I can just remember to do the same...
Not only do we have to apply that to the people we allow in our lives, whether romantic or platonic, but we must apply it to ourselves. We must occasionally look in the mirror and ask ourselves if our actions are reflecting our character the way we want them to. We all slip from time to time, and we must then do what it takes to get back on track. Male or female we must check ourselves to make sure we're not slipping into behaviors that treat others badly otherwise we risk becoming jerks.
Life is all about finding, setting, and expressing our boundaries while exploring the opportunities that test our boundaries.
Some moments in life force us to say "Jerks Need Not Apply" and others force us to admit "I know I've been a jerk, and I'm sorry."
Setting our boundaries and honoring the boundaries of others is the best solution for curing the epidemic of jerkish behavior we seem to face these days.
In the meantime, maybe Kelly and I should get to work on the t-shirts we discussed... Jerks Need Not Apply. I want mine to be red with black letters.. Or maybe greeen with pink letters... Or maybe bright blue with white letters... On further thought, just give me one of each...
T. L. Cooper grew up on a farm in Tollesboro, Kentucky. She earned a Bachelor of Science from Eastern Kentucky University. Her poems, short stories, articles, and essays have appeared online, in books, and in magazines. Her published work includes a novel, All She Ever Wanted and four books of poetry. When not writing, she enjoys yoga, golf, and traveling. Currently, she resides in Albany, Oregon.