I Am An Asshole And So Are You
Updated: May 12
And So Are You
You may have heard this story. It's about an old Cherokee man and his grandson, and it goes like this:
The Cherokee man is talking to his grandson. He tells the boy there's a fight going on inside him between two wolves; that we all have a war going on inside us between two wolves.
One of the wolves is good, and one is bad. The good one emanates awesome things like joy, kindness, compassion- you get the drift. It's the goodness inside him, and that goodness enriches both his own life and the lives of others.
The bad wolf exhibits qualities that kind of suck, like superiority, greed, self-pity, and lying. It represents the negative aspects of the grandfather's personality. It is the part that causes him to damage himself, and that makes others think he is an asshole.
The grandson asks his grandfather which wolf will win, and the old Cherokee grandfather says. "The one you feed."
The point of my telling this story is to show that we are all both good and bad. We all have an amazing inner person, and we also have an asshole inside us. Try not to feed the asshole.
That's right. You are capable of being an asshole.
I am also capable of being an asshole, so at least we are not alone! Our asshole behavior may or may not manifest outwardly, but we all have to fight that inner asshole at times.
We have to fight it when we are alone, and we have to fight it when we are around others. If I'm at home alone, and nothing in my life seems to be going well, I can choose to feel angry and pity myself. I can call or text my friend and tell him I'm cursed, and nothing will ever be better and that I hate everyone. I have done this before.
Or, I can choose to try to calm myself, and if I want to, to call or text my friend and explain that I'm feeling down. I can tell him I feel stressed, and I could use a listening ear and some encouragement. I can choose not to catastrophize my situation and accept it as part of life. A close friend and I do this for each other, and we talk each other down off the ledge regularly.
I am sure you can see which option is healthier. Do I always choose the healthier option? Hell no! I'm human. I let my inner asshole win way too often when it comes to how I feel about myself and my life. Perhaps a lot of us do that. But, I am making an effort to be kinder to myself, and I'm slowly making progress.
It's easier for most of us to control our inner asshole when we are around other people than when we are alone. If we feel mad as hell and don't care if we hurt people's feelings, and we are in public, we are less likely to behave in damaging ways. We may not be able to choose the emotions we feel, but we can decide how or if we act on them.
And, let's not pretend we don't all feel that way sometimes, in certain moments. Sometimes we feel so shitty or angry that we don't care who knows it or who we hurt. We don't really want to hurt people, not in our hearts. The vast majority of us don't truly want to treat people poorly, even when we do. We are merely acting without thinking or from a wounded place within us.
There are also those calm people who manage not to show anyone they feel angry and shitty. They might like to unleash the fury of a thousand suns on everyone around them. But they don't. I am working toward being one of those people.
I will admit I have said and done things in my life that really hurt people because, in those moments, I didn't give a shit how anyone else felt. I cared about how I felt. It's okay to own it if you've done this too. I think most people have, at least once in their lives.
The prospect of social rejection keeps us from being total dicks around other people. We could get fired, people might not want to be around us, or we might be seen as "bad people." People don't like this.
If at times these public repercussions are the only things keeping our inner asshole at bay, that's okay. No one knows what we are thinking and feeling unless we show them or tell them. If we keep it under control, we protect others from the fallout no matter how we do it.
Those who know us well, even coworkers we're not close to but who we've worked with for years, may realize something is wrong or that something is bothering us.
But there is a difference between seeming irritable and sullen and in saying:
"Jody, I can't stand to hear you drone on-and-on in meetings because you don't actually say anything, and all your ideas suck anyway."
If we shut the hell up and control ourselves, Jody will write our irritability and sullenness off as something we were going through that she doesn't know about. But if we tell her she's annoying and sucks and has terrible ideas, Jody will likely feel hurt. She may not want to deal with us ever again, and she may talk with management about what an asshole we are. If Jody is not controlling her own inner asshole, she may even punch us in the throat!
Sometimes our inner asshole comes out due to mental health issues, or because we are under tremendous pressure, or for some other reason we didn't create. It's not that we are giant dicks. It's that we are incapable of or don't know how to keep that bad, asshole wolf at bay.
Before I had my bipolar disorder under control, I was manic for two straight years. Have you ever been around a person with severe type I bipolar disorder who is unmedicated or undiagnosed?
If the person is depressed, they unleash their inner asshole on themselves. That sucks, and it hurts both them and those who care about them in very negative ways. I don't want to underemphasize what a terrible enemy depression can be. I really do know.
When you are manic, you have the potential to wreak vitriolic havoc on anyone who happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. This can mean anyone you are around at possibly any damn time of the day. You have the potential to destroy people in that unique way only a manic person can.
People with uncontrolled mania and I'm speaking about myself here, are the definition of assholes. If you have uncontrolled mania and you never act like an asshole, that is amazing. I acted like a giant asshole way too often during my manic days. While maybe even once is too often, I needed a spreadsheet to keep track of my asshole moments. And, my real, not manic self is not even an asshole a large majority of the time!
If you don't understand bipolar mania, that's fine, and explaining it is beyond the scope of this post. We actually cannot help it, which is why we have to deal with our issues so that we can help it.
If you want to talk to someone about not controlling your inner asshole around other people, well, hey babycakes, I'm your girl.
Please do not feel bad that you have an inner asshole. I simply ask that you be aware of it. That's helpful and productive. And don't say you don't have one. That's a lie.
Even Mother Theresa had an inner asshole. Even the Dalai Lama has an inner asshole. They just learned how to harness the power of their inner assholes to improve both their own lives and the lives of others. So if they had/have an inner asshole, you and I sure as hell do too!
When we recognize that we can all be both wonderful and horrible, we accept our humanity. We acknowledge we are not and never will think and behave perfectly. And, when we accept these facts about ourselves, we can enroll that inner asshole in training classes the way you do a puppy. Then he learns not to knock people down or bite them, and we can teach our inner asshole not to do these things either. We can even provide ourselves with treats for succeeding!
We can also teach our inner wonderful to temper our inner asshole into just being kind of a jerk occasionally. We can even bring joy WHEREVER we go, rather than WHENEVER we go.
Work with your inner asshole, not against it. And don't forget, while both the good wolf and the bad wolf live inside you, you get to choose which one you feed.