Adversity gives no one carte blanche to be a jerk.
There was a day last week when everything just went to hell and regardless of how hard I tried, nothing worked out right. To make matters worse, a huge storm with a powerful low-pressure system was blowing in causing my muscles to lock up painfully. I was stressed, in pain and incredibly cranky. When my computer system decided it was the perfect time to crash, I gave up, called it a day and went home. The traffic made me crankier and by the time I arrived, I was walking a thin line between keeping and losing my cool. All I wanted to do was sit in silence, catch my breath and try to ease the pain in my aching muscles.
I was greeted at the door by a rambunctious puppy and an unsuspecting husband. I’m not even sure what he said that caused me to trip over that very thin line but trip I did and I snapped at him angrily. I think he may have asked how my day was. The second the angry retort came out of my mouth, I regretted it. He wasn’t the cause of my discomfort. He wasn’t responsible for nothing going right. He most definitely didn’t deserve my anger to be directed at him, and I knew that. But, he was closer than anyone else and took the brunt of my day. I felt like a jerk and immediately apologized. There was no excuse for it, so I didn’t even try. He hugged me close, told me to take a shower and that he would handle the puppy and dinner.
My bad day wasn’t an excuse to be a jackass to him. It was also completely out of character for me, which is why he was so quick to let it go. I own my actions fully, though. I was completely out of line, and it bothered me because I try hard on the days when I am in pain to not get testy with the people around me.
Sometimes I fail and get snippy with someone who doesn’t deserve it. I think we all probably do it once and a while, we’re human.
But there are those who feel adversity of any kind gives them complete license to treat others horribly.
I saw a man the other day while out for lunch with a friend who was being so rude and hateful to his waitress that a few other patrons, myself included, said something to him. He was completely out of line, furious over some imagined slight. When he stormed out of the restaurant the woman he was with apologized for him, saying he had just lost a big account and was worried about his job. Like that somehow excused his behavior.
The waitress, I am assuming, was not the big account. So his mistreatment of her was a passive aggressive way for him to get back at someone else completely. He couldn’t lash out at those responsible, so he lashed out at the server and felt entirely justified in doing so. He wasn’t. The waitress was a pro and shook it off, knowing she hadn’t done anything to deserve it and went about her day.
There are certain situations where those on the receiving end of this kind of behavior, can’t walk away so easily. For me, growing up with a bipolar mother who used her mental illness as an excuse for all of her hateful behavior was one of the hardest things I’ve had to deal with. She knew she was ill, did nothing to fight her illness and would never accept responsibility for her actions because of it. She felt she shouldn’t be held accountable because she was depressed about her life. She felt absolved of how she treated my sister and me because she believed she had a valid excuse.
Neither does a husband who takes his anger out on his wife by physically and verbally abusing her or the woman who after a fight with her boyfriend, drives home drunk, causing a fatal accident. Angry teenagers who bully and torment other kids because they have no other outlet for their fury. Parents who yell and scream at their children because of work stress, life stress or whatever.
People who use the adversity in their lives as an excuse to be mean.
Having stress in life does not excuse treating others horribly. Suffering from mental illness is not a free pass on being held accountable for their actions. Choosing to participate in dangerous behavior like drunk driving is not excused by having a fight with a loved one, and bullying because someone is angry and doesn’t know how to deal with it, doesn’t make it right, justified or okay. When someone is hateful because they are unhappy in their life, it is, however you look it – unacceptable.
Far too many times, that is exactly what we do.
We accept it. We take it. We expect it. We excuse it.
We need to stop. We are not scapegoats.
We are not on this earth for someone, anyone, to mistreat us regardless of how they justify it. Being held responsible for things that have nothing to do with us and taking the brunt of their emotional outbursts is unfair, unhealthy and completely inexcusable. Allowing ourselves to be the patsy, even when it’s someone we love, is not going to solve the problem; it’s going to give them permission to continue whenever they’re upset.
You do not, I repeat, DO NOT – need to allow yourself just to take it.
You aren’t doing yourself or them any favors by doing so. Adversity in life is not a license to be cruel. It’s not a justification nor does it absolve them of anything. Hold them accountable. Stand up for yourself. You may not see the damage it does, allowing someone to misplace their unhappiness, anger or pain on you but it is there, getting worse the longer it goes on. Because, after a while, you start to think that maybe it is your fault. Maybe if you had just done this, said that, not done this; it wouldn’t have happened. Once you start down that rabbit hole, pulling yourself out of it, making them see how their actions are reprehensible can become nearly impossible.
It’s not your fault.
It was never your fault.
Every once in a while, we are going to snap at someone we love and have loved ones snap at us. We’re human. In the heat of the moment or in the midst of an emotional time, it happens. But own it. Apologize once everything calms down and take responsibility for your actions. Don’t blame the stress. Don’t justify it. Own it and expect the same in return, always.
Remember that if someone in your life is treating you like crap, there is something wrong with them, not you. Normal, healthy people do not go around destroying other people because something in their life is bothering them.
Adversity gives no one carte blanche to be a jerk.
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