Before you sling fecal matter at me, let me be clear. If you and I are human (and unless your Golden can read, that’s you), we have the capacity to be anything that humanity can encompass. Its greatest gentility, courage and graciousness as well as all that unfortunate sewage at the other end of the bell curve, which we would REALLY not like to admit, look at, or own.
Stuff like that has a bad habit of bubbling up when we don’t expect it, given the proper circumstances. That’s the whole point.
No matter how saintly we believe ourselves to be, or how dearly we wish to be consistently nice, kind, generous, appreciative, loving, the right conditions will absolutely, positively bring out our worst.
You fire someone, cause him to lose his home, car, healthcare and status, then he loses his family and gets diagnosed with Stage 3 lung cancer, you will watch the nicest neighbor in the world go postal.
Because we are human.
We are just as capable of eating another human as Jeffrey Dahmer if we are stranded in a remote area without food, without resources and are starving to death.
You threaten the kindest, sweetest person in the world with kidnapping her three-year old daughter and attempt to rape her just for fun, and watch that woman turn into a Tasmanian devil on angel dust to protect her child first, and then herself.
None of us is consistently anything all the time for the simple fact that conditions and circumstances shift, and when those dynamics change, our behavior also shifts. It’s how we’re designed. What gets in the way is when we vehemently deny even the slightest possibility that we could ever be mean, rude, unkind, or any other adjective that you find objectionable.
The hardest part of doing our best to live in a (semi) polite society is that the rules of engagement demand that we behave in ways that don’t incite others to riot. However, when people are desperate, or addicted to heroin, or their kids have been taken away due to a custody battle, they morph.
Part of this is because we have to in order to survive. We’ve got to unload the adrenaline, the anger, the fear, whatever it is that is hanging onto our backs.
Recently I have had direct experience of this very sort while dealing with the VA, doctors who don’t listen when I say I am in constant, dire pain, an inability to sleep, exercise, rest or work. Several months of this caused me to morph into a monster that I didn’t recognize. As someone who has written a prize-winning book on how to uplift people with words, I was horrified to find myself impatient, snarling into the phone and generally sending anyone near me running for the hills. I would run, too, if I’d had to deal with me. I did want to run from me. I DID RUN FROM ME. I’ve never been in that kind of extreme distress before and I wasn’t prepared for the harridan who showed up in my shoes.
Because I’m human.
After a certain amount of stress and pain, I lost my cool. After a certain number of days with no sleep and 24/7 pain and a doctor dismissing this as “hysterical,” I felt myself plunge. After I had smashed my face into a bookcase as a result of post-surgical drugs and the doctor blew it off as meaningless, and that resulted in twenty migraines a month, I couldn’t find my sense of humor any more. After weeks of fighting with the VA to get a scan to find out what had happened to my screaming shoulder so that we could begin a proper treatment plan to get me out off this pain, I’d had it.
Chances are other people might have had it, too. A few have probably had it with me, and I can’t blame them.
There are days I’m right saintly. It depends.
There are days that I am the Super Bitch from Hell. It depends.
Anyone seeing me only on one day or another would form a distinct impression and they would both be right.
Just as they would any time they saw me soothe a terrified animal, heft packages into an old woman’s car, or scream into the phone when a mindless moron at the other end informs me that policies preclude my being able to pay for my own MRI scan, which I desperately needed to get a solution to the constant, endless pain.
What is essential, perhaps, is to give myself- and along with that, everyone else- permission to be in extremis. It doesn’t make much difference what pushed us into that corner: pain, loss, despair, a death in the family. Each of us has that tipping point that says Beyond here be dragons.
Yah. I have a few in the folds of my inner world and lately I have seen them rise like Smaug from the otherwise mostly polite treasure of my daily interactions.
Of course it’s embarrassing. But it’s also an excellent lesson in the vulnerable humanity that we all embody. No saint is a saint full time. In fact, what’s interesting about saints is that a great many of them were right assholes. They’d never have become saints had they not also been sinners. https://www.osv.com/OSVNewsweekly/Story/TabId/2672/ArtMID/13567/ArticleID/9813/The-worst-sinners-who-became-saints.aspx
Look, as a lapsed Catholic, that litany of bad operators gives me a whole lotta hope. No pope is going to uplift me into sainthood but if those folks could find a way to grace, hey. There’s hope for all of us.
Coming face to face with the least attractive parts of our nature is one of Mother Nature’s finest ways of teaching us humility, compassion and grace. If I (who of course am SUCH a nice person, am SO polite and respectful) can sear the skin off some poor customer service rep because I’m in just that level of pain and frustration, then by law, I have to understand that someone else behaving similarly has just as legitimate a reason as I do to act so out of sorts.
This doesn’t condone the behavior. Not what I’m saying. What I am saying is that I see. And by seeing, I feel. By feeling I understand.
It is exceedingly unpleasant to be handed your ego on a platter, with the message that your soaring ideas about who you are are unsupportable. Here’s the proof. It’s like having someone show up at your home the morning after a serious bender and inform you that you’d just insulted all your closest friends and tried to stick your mitt down your wife’s sister’s blouse.
“But I’m not like that,” you whine defensively.
“Oh yeah? Watch this on YouTube.” There you are, in all your glory. A full-blown jerk and a**hole.
Without those life lessons about learning to embrace and face up to those parts of me that are distinctly unpleasant, I have no patience with others who are also hurting badly enough to behave badly.
I read a phrase one time that has stuck to me like Velcro, in that hugely annoying way that Universal truths do especially when I dearly do not wish to acknowledge them:
What you resist, persists.
The more I resist the idea that I can’t possibly be rude or belligerent or obnoxious or annoying or oppressive, the more likely I’m going to find myself being any or all of those things. So it is with us all.
I’d love to go hide in the woods on such days. However, all those ugly parts cling to me like dingleberries on my butt. I either deal with them, or they forever harrass me, and make me miserable to deal with. This is a good thing.