Don’t be a jerk. Cool? Cool…
For real though, being a jerk ruins stuff. So why do we act like jerks so often? We complain about jerks all the time, you would think it would teach us something. We see it cross-generationally, bad behavior that is learned and then reciprocated. We see it across social, economic and political lines. People condemn the behavior but not a moment later are returning it in kind. It is everywhere… and I can’t deal… (By the way, the picture above says this: I give God 10%. Why do you get 18? – Pastor Allen Bell)
Don’t Be a Jerk!
Basic stuff right? Shouldn’t even need to be said right? So why are so many of us content with being jerks? It’s been two days since a guy said some stuff to some people (SOTU) and Jerk-itude, or maybe it should be Jerk-yology, idk, is running rampant. From top to bottom, people are being jerks. It seems that daily we get better and better at it. We can’t have conversations about “issues” without having serious issues that cause us to behave like jerks. What is to be done?
If you think the President is a jerk, that’s fine, but being a jerk in response solves nothing.
If you think that people calling the president a jerk are jerks and you respond by being a jerk, again, you can have your opinion, but you just made the situation worse.
If you think us youngins are lazy, entitled, and too sensitive, being a jerk to us only makes us want to return the favor.
Same for accusing elders of being out of touch, judgemental and hypocritical… it only adds to the problem.
And Church, that goes for you too. If you are jerks to those outside the church for being “sinners,” guess what… they ain’t coming in to hear more about how sinful they are.
I think we are wired to be Jerks
I can only speak for myself, and perhaps my generation, but I think we are predisposed to this kind of behavior. Maybe it’s misguided passion, maybe its a sense of duty to correct what we perceive to be the wrongs of the world… I don’t know. Whatever it is, I don’t think it’s helping.
May I offer two suggestions:
1. Say Sorry
If you mess something up, own it. If you were a jerk to someone, say sorry. Even if you think you were “right” it never excuses being a jerk to someone and belittling them for their opinions. Forgiveness is healing, reconciliation is restorative and if you are a person of faith, it’s a straight up command (Matthew 6:14-15).
2. Don’t critique bad behavior with more bad behavior.
“After all, the best critique of a wrong thing is the practice of something better.”*
What if we stopped criticizing the wrong things by being jerks and instead practice something better? When we practice a better thing, a good thing, it automatically calls into question the practice of the bad. Example: If you don’t like how someone treats you, don’t reciprocate the behavior, kill it with kindness.
How many times have you heard that growing up? How often have we forgotten to practice it? Really it’s the only solution to a problem that is so invasive within our culture that it threatens the very fabric of society. How can we coexist with one another when all we have to offer society is our jerky behavior.
Jesus put it bluntly:
Matthew 7:12 Therefore, you should treat people in the same way that you want people to treat you
As Francis of Assisi once said: “Preach the gospel at all times, and when necessary, use words.” To this, I would simply add that you live loudly. Millennials, we are supposedly the most generous, passionate and driven generation ever (Don’t believe me, check this out, and this, and this). So let’s channel that generosity, that passion and drive to live loudly, to critique bad behavior with good, and to not feed into the caustic practice of being a jerk.
We are the largest living generation, people. Our potential impact for good is unprecedented. So don’t feed into the rhetoric we see so often. Don’t be a jerk, but live and love loudly.
Until next time…
*Claiborne, Shane. Red Letter Revolution: What If Jesus Really Meant What He Said? (p. 161). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
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