If I took a poll of most of the people who know me, they would probably unequivocally say that I’m an asshole.I’m okay with that assumption. And even while they’re saying it, my friends would add that deep down my heart is in the right place and that I’m also not a douchebag about it.
There’s a significant difference between being an asshole and a douchebag.
We have an epidemic in this country, and it’s that people can’t handle the truth. They want to live in their pretty Instagram bubbles that they’ve created. That’s fine if that makes you happy but if you come to me asking why the pretty pictures don’t match up with reality, I’m going to tell you the truth, and you’re probably not going to like it.
What is the truth?
The truth is not subjective. It’s based on facts that everyone sees but don’t want to admit that they see it. It could be for various reasons. Most often it’s to avoid conflict, or that person doesn’t want to be the bad guy. But sometimes you have to be. If no one else wants to take up the baton, there are just certain situations that call for being an asshole. I’ll give you an example of one that recently happened to me.
In one of my workshops, there was a woman who I think could write better if she just had a push. The words she utilizes and her grasp of description are just on the cusp of being brilliant. All she needed is that slight push over the edge of mediocrity.
I needed that same push, years ago. I was in high school, and my English teacher saw that I had a talent hidden under the surface, but I was lazy and refused to push myself. He repeatedly gave me C’s and D’s on everything I wrote. When I finally got up the courage to ask him why when I felt like my peers were turning in equally crappy papers he said, “I know you can write better than this, dig deeper.”
The other kids in my class were turning in their best work for them, and that’s why their grades were higher, but I was playing it safe. I dug deeper and managed to wind up with a B, but he never let up on me until he finally pushed me over the ledge.
But back to the woman in my class.
I told her her piece needed a lot of work and that it wasn’t great (asshole comment). Then I went on to say that I knew that anyone who could write sentences like “x” was capable of writing something amazing (nice comment).
She said I was an asshole, in a nice way of course even though she could have flat out called me one and it wouldn’t have mattered. I believed in her writing, and I believed in her enough to go out on the limb, be the asshole, and call her out on it. In a room full of “this is so great,” it was my comment that got under her skin. Her next piece blew me away, and I told her so.
The difference between a douchebag and an asshole.
It’s possible to be a nice asshole, you don’t have to be a douchebag, and there is a distinct difference.
A douchebag is someone who doesn’t care if their comment is hurting your feelings and to some extent, they get off on it. These are the people that yell out their unsolicited truths.
Notice I wrote unsolicited.
That’s a key word here because most if not all douchebags dole out unsolicited asshole opinions. They aren’t facts. It’s just their shitty way of making themselves feel better about their tiny asshole riddled lives. Their comments are never helpful, and they never follow the rules of being a “nice” asshole.
Five steps to being a “nice” asshole.
- Never give an opinion if it isn’t asked of you. No one likes a know it all.
- ALWAYS base your opinion on facts, no one cares about what you “think” or “feel” about a situation.
- Don’t say mean or intentionally hurtful things. For example, if your friend’s teenage daughter gets knocked up (do people still even use that phrase?), and they ask you how it could have happened? It’s not helpful to remind them how they left her home to her own devices more often than not or how you heard from your kid that she was the school doorknob. Neither comment is helpful, and while they both “might” be true, it’s not going to get you anywhere.
- ALWAYS add something positive and if you can’t find something nice to say by all means make it up.
- Don’t belabor the point. If you’re going to stick in the knife, have the courtesy to pull it out, twisting it around only makes you look like a douchebag.
If you follow those five rules, I’m positive that while most people will still call you an asshole, you will at the very least elevate yourself from douchebag status. No one wants to be called a douche.
But why can’t we handle the truth?
We live in unprecedented times where everyone tries to appease everyone. The problem with that is that you can’t, and you’re just setting yourself up for failure if you try. Sure there are times when we should, like at my kids’ school where there are multiple allergies, and someone could die if I decide to be the douchebag that doesn’t care about a kid with a peanut allergy. It’s not appeasement. It’s just being a good human being.
Then are times when it’s okay to tell people to get over themselves. Like the person who comes to a barbeque and expects you to have more vegetable choices other than just salad because they’re vegan.
Now before you jump in on me, I’m vegetarian (most days, not by choice but because my doctor says so). I would never presume to require it of anyone that they accommodate my lifestyle choices.
That said if you’re vegan and you come to my barbeque you should expect that there’s going to be meat on the menu and that I’m going to tell you to get over yourself when you start giving me your unsolicited opinions on why I should not serve meat. Because that’s just douchebaggery and you will be called out on it. But nicely.
Even while everyone knows the fundamental truth, you can’t appease everyone all of the time. We’re still expected to. In those instances when we fail or just plain stand up and say, “that’s preposterous,” we’re labeled an asshole because we refuse to play the appeasement game.
Mollifying the masses and being as politically correct as possible has created a generation of individuals who can’t handle anything that doesn’t line up with their at times disjointed view of the world. And if you make the mistake of challenging those beliefs, you’re the asshole.
While I agree that there are occasions where being politically correct is warranted, no one wants to hear how racist, homophobic, ageist, or sexist you are. There are occasions where it just goes overboard, and I’m left to wonder what our ancestors would think of us. But that’s a post for another day.
The truth at times can be a double-edged sword of misery. The receiver is getting information that they don’t want to hear and the messenger usually getting slaughtered.
So why do it?
It’s not because I get some sick pleasure out of being an asshole because that would make me a douchebag. It’s because I firmly believe in the idea of doing unto others. If I’m doing something utterly retarded, I expect that my “friends” should call me out on it. If I write something that’s completely off base or just not up to my normal standards, I expect nothing less than to get raked over the coals. I would be disappointed if I wasn’t. That doesn’t mean trolling because that’s just stupid.
I mean honest and thoughtful criticism. We need more of it than maybe we’ll all start to grow as human beings. It couldn’t hurt, everything else we’ve tried has failed.
If you ever ask me if you look “fat” in your jeans, I’m going to say yes whether you do or not just on principle, you shouldn’t ask me such questions. No one cares how you look in your jeans. It’s just your perception.
I have to give credit where credit is due. This post would not have been possible without the words of John Gorman, whose post, inspired this one. I enjoy reading his words and if you haven’t discovered his writing yet, you should. I don’t make recommendations often, and this is one of them. Read his words. You might learn something about yourself or get inspired.
*This post was originally published on Medium on 5/31/2018.