Why it’s worse to be a jerk than to be around one | SummitDaily.com
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Why it’s worse to be a jerk than to be around one

Margaret is writing a book about crazy people and I’m going to be in it. She is some sort of doctor of dysfunction and is interviewing people around the country who grew up in non-Walton-like families.

I’ve sat through a few hours of interviews – some written, some in person and one group discussion. Many of the stories told were horrific. I actually felt an inclination to embellish my own experiences to keep up with the neurotic histories of some of the others.

I was beginning to worry my family’s weirdness did not measure up to the Manson-family-neuroses of the rest of the group. It then came to me that the reason my experiences seemed benign – when it comes to dysfunction – is it’s more painful to be a spectator than a participant.



The human animal is as adaptable as a cockroach or as fragile as cut glass. Sometimes both qualities can be found in the same person. As I sat in the room with several people from aberrant homes, it dawned on me the percentage of the group that was happy, sad, content, ticked-off, funny or bitter, pretty much mirrored the rest of the world.

It led me to believe that, no matter what degree of good or bad nurturing one faces while growing up, the odds for gaining contentment are much the same.



When I consider my own friends and family, I see no correlation among those who are happy or sad with any particular pattern of childhood history. Certainly, some trauma and stress can damage a person for life, but when it comes to your average run-of-the mill, bull-goose-loony-family-unit, the odds of contentment or melancholia are a toss-up.

Does this mean that parents shouldn’t attempt to provide a nurturing, love-filled home for the little yard apes they’ve brought into this world? Of course not. If prospective parents don’t feel they can provide a loving habitat for a child, they should not have one.

On the other hand, a good home and loving family do not assure a happy child or adult. Nor does a harsh upbringing assure a child will grow up to be a rap musician or Republican.

Another observation I made while taking part in Margaret’s research is how long many people hang on to their anger. For many of those participating, they were still angry with parents, siblings, teachers and clergy long dead. I could not disagree the subjects of their rage misused them badly, but I was surprised that after decades of time, they still let those jerks get to them.

I believe that with most bad parents, spouses – or just people in general – it is harder to be them then to be around them.

Take the biggest jerks you know. Yes, it truly sucks being in their vicinity, but at least you can leave. They are stuck with themselves. I’ve also come to the conclusion no one awakens in the morning and says, “I’m going to be a jerk today.”

Most of the selfish, obnoxious, rude, wicked people I know consider themselves as the victims, or are so delusional, they have no concept of their own demeanor.

I think most people – good, bad or in the middle – are simply doing the best they can. Certainly, in many cases, they’re best stinks, but they are incapable, either from nature or nurture, of behaving any other way.

The last question of the last interview session I underwent with Margaret was, “If you could relive your childhood and adolescence, what would you change?”

That question threw me. If I changed where I’ve been, would that change where I am? I’m not sure I’d want to do that. It’s true, I’m a middle-aged convicted felon with a lizard tongue, attention span of a hummingbird and an unnatural fascination with toilet bowl cleaners, but I might be worse. At least I know what sucks about me, and if I occasionally forget, my wife has been kind enough to write it down.

If I were raised by June and Ward Cleaver I might have turned out normal, but normal can be boring. Rather than answer, I left that question blank and went skiing S

Jeffrey Bergeron, under the alias of “Biff America” can be seen on RSN television, heard on KYSL and KOA radio, and read in several mountain publications. He lives in Breckenridge and can be reached at biffamerica@compuserve.com.


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