Bait

If a trout sees a fly flitting about on the surface of his river, he’s going to snap at it. It’s in his nature. And when it’s just nature at play, that’s a great idea. Everybody needs food.

Unfortunately, sometimes man is inserting himself into this little game, and then taking that bait means certain death for the trout. I’ve always had mixed emotions about that sort of thing. When you take advantage of the fact that another creature is going to do what comes naturally, it kind of seems like cheating to me.

Bait. It’s a sinister thing. And the worst part is that we use it on one another, too.

If you’ve ever snapped off an angry response to a hostile e-mail, you know exactly what I’m talking about. You took the bait. And that almost always makes things worse for you.

Humans have always struggled with delayed gratification. The bait is there now, and it’s soooo satisfying to snap at it. For a split second. Then the regret and/or embarrassment sets in.

Trolls, in particular, count on this. They get some weird satisfaction from getting a rise out of people, while hiding alone in their lonely little rooms, clad in their stained and stretched out tighty whities. And they are oh, so good at it.

When someone gives you bait, it’s hard not to take it. But as a loved one says, “Don’t let their stupid rub off on you.” Wise words, indeed.

I’m trying to remind myself that no one controls my timeline. I don’t have to respond instantly to an e-mail. The fact that I’ve never been very good with snappy comebacks is probably a good thing, after all.

Take a breath. Let things percolate. Give yourself the time to use your very valuable brain. Because hooks in the mouth hurt.

Trout fly

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The Limit of My Tolerance

We have reached a point of such divisiveness in this country that it’s really hard to even get through a day without disagreeing with someone. That’s fine. I don’t expect everyone to agree with me. In fact, I’d find this world rather boring if everyone did.

But what is even more tragic is that we are losing the ability to maintain a respectful discourse. I blame social media for this. We are now, more than ever, able to interact with total strangers and yet remain virtually anonymous to them. For some reason, that seems to allow the more crass amongst us to be outright hostile.

My whole life, I have put up with a mountain of crap from people who make these Facebook trolls seem like punters. Because of that, rightly or wrongly, my threshold for abuse is rather high. But I do have a hair trigger when someone attacks one of my friends or loved ones. You do that, and you have then entered the no-fly zone.

I will warn you once. But if you don’t correct your course to a more courteous trajectory, I will shoot you right out of my airspace. And I’ll have absolutely no regrets about it. Because life is just too freakin’ short to put up with hostility.

This isn’t the same as unfriending someone whose posts are irritating to you. A cousin did that to me, and I was shocked by that. It’s something I’d never do. This isn’t about ruffling feathers. It’s about basic decency.

I have very little control over the direction in which this country is going, but I sure as heck can control the tone of my Facebook page. Believe that. So agree or disagree with the people that I care about. That’s your business. But do it with courtesy, or we’re done.

No Trespassing

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Bullies

There’s nothing I hate more on this earth than a bully. And I happen to interact with one regularly. Her aggression really intimidated me at first. But over time when she realized I wasn’t going to budge about certain things, she then had to get increasingly nit-picky until now the things that she blows up about seem ever more pathetic.

Now when I see her starting to puff up like a bullfrog, instead of becoming tense, I’m hard-pressed not to laugh. I can see how weak and ineffectual she truly is, and it’s quite obvious that that’s the one thing she fears—that her weakness will be revealed. That’s the thing about bullies. They may seem to loom large, but they’re really hollow inside.

I’m a fairly laid back, peace-loving individual, but if someone bullies a person that I happen to love, watch out. I will cut a beyotch. Don’t even try it. Funny that it has only been recently that I’ve learned to stand up for myself as ferociously as I stand up for those I love. And even now, it’s doesn’t come naturally to me to do so. But the older I get, the more tired I become, and the less I’m willing to tolerate abuse.

It’s rather sad that we live in a world where we have to learn to counteract such hostile behavior in order to effectively function. But it’s nice to be one of the good guys. I look at my bully and I don’t envy her that miserable existence. She may think she’s punishing others, but the main person she punishes is herself, because she’s tense, unhappy and friendless.

[Image credit: aqualandpetsplus.com]
[Image credit: aqualandpetsplus.com]

Adult Bullies

The psychiatric community does not like to place the label of psychopath on children. I suppose that is understandable, because there’s no known cure for psychopathy, and if you get that diagnosis wrong, you could drastically damage that child’s life. No one wants to give up on a child. But the theory is that one percent of the population is psychopathic, and the current thinking appears to be that this is not a trait that you suddenly acquire one day like a new pair of shoes. You are born with it. So it stands to reason that one percent of all children are psychopathic as well.

Most psychopaths do not turn into violent serial killers. Many of them are quite successful in business and relatively functional members of society. A lot of that has to do with their upbringing. Put a psychopathic child in a warped and abusive family, and you might get a murderer. But put him or her in a healthy, loving environment, and chances are you’ll get someone who can at least pass as being a normal person much of the time.

When children behave badly, it’s their parents who are usually blamed, or lack of education, or inadequate role models. The assumption is that their behavior can change if these factors are altered. But when an adult is violent or cruel, those excuses, as far as I’m concerned, only go so far. Adults, you see, should know better.

I’ve known my fair share of despicable adults. Many of them have had horrible childhoods. But after a certain point, one ought to be able to put on one’s big boy pants and take responsibility for one’s actions. If you are incapable of doing that, then there’s a good chance you have psychopathic tendencies.

I’ve known people who were 65 years old and were still bullies. They delighted in making life a living hell for those around them. They were cruel, hostile, aggressive, and completely devoid of compassion. If you’ve functioned like that for decades, that’s not some mere character flaw, that’s a lifestyle.

Speaking from painful experience, people like that are not going to change, and your best defense against them is to avoid contact as much as possible. Woe betide you if you have to work with this type of individual. If your human resources department thinks that these negative traits can be reversed with some sort of communications or anger management training, they will be sadly mistaken. If they don’t have the courage to cut these people out of the company like a cancerous tumor, then your only hope, unfortunately, is to try and outlast them with your sanity intact, or move on.

Yes, I know, it should be
Yes, I know, it should be “than”, not “then”. I didn’t make the meme.

Human Force Fields

Recently, an employee with a company closely related to mine retired and I kid you not, we all felt as if we’d taken off a shoe that was two sizes too small. The man was toxic, hostile, anal, and completely evil. I’ve never in my life met anyone who was so universally disliked. The day he left, most of us were humming, “Ding dong, the witch is dead” under our breaths. And the mood is so much lighter ever since then.

I’m sure everyone has come across someone like that at least once in their lives. Also, chances are we’ve all met someone who can light up a room just by entering it, and someone else who can just make you feel calm. Certain people we like right away, and others instantly irritate us. Sometimes you don’t realize what a negative or positive influence a person has upon your life until he or she is gone.

I believe we each have a certain force field that we project outward. Some of it is natural and beyond our control. Either you have charisma or you don’t.

Part of it, though, is well within our purview. No one has to be a horse’s ass. It’s a choice. I will say however, in the defense of  equine posteriors the world over (most of whom seem to beat a path to my door), that the vast majority of them appear clueless as to how they are perceived. But that’s really no excuse. There are right ways and wrong ways to behave. Everyone should be treated with respect.

I honestly believe that the more positive people out there are ever mindful of their impact upon those around them. That’s the key. Unless you’re capable of thinking about how your behavior affects others, you cannot possibly aspire to be the best individual you can.

People with low self-esteem honestly don’t think they impact others. It would never occur to a selfish person to even take others into consideration. And inherently angry people are so focused on their rage that it doesn’t occur to them that their acid is spilling on those who are forced to live and work with them.

What kind of force field are you putting out? Your influence extends far beyond your physical body. Don’t be the type of person whom others are happy or relieved to see go away.

forcefield

[Image credit: lapressegalactique.net]

The Power of Persuasion

This should be a very short entry, because I’m fairly convinced that I’ve never changed anyone’s mind about anything. Ever. I mean, EVER.

Wow. It feels good to admit that out loud. What a load off my shoulders!

If there were a 12 step program for people like me, I’d be at step two. Step one was “Admitting I’m powerless to persuade others”. Step two should probably be, “Stop wasting your time engaging in debates”.

And it’s true, I do debate a lot. Facebook is probably the last place on earth I should hang out. It’s bad enough arguing with people face to face, but when you can do it from the relative anonymity of cyberspace, people can get downright hostile.

Ironically, I hate confrontation. Absolutely despise it. It’s not like I’m going around getting into shouting matches with people or exchanging emotionally charged epithets. (And one rarely gets to use the word epithet, so I will give myself a moment of silence to appreciate the opportunity.)

But when I hear someone say something, well, stupid, I have a hard time not providing facts and logical counterpoints, and, yes, it’s true, a few well-placed opinions. But the only result I can really see from my actions, if I’m completely honest with myself, is a marked increase in my stress level.

I am finding this blog helpful, though, in terms of having a safe place to vent. But I need to totally detox from the anxiety roller coaster that I have constructed for myself. So I am hereby going to make an effort to live and let live.

But if you would care to help me in my emotional growth, you could start by trying to be right a little more often. Thanks in advance.

persuasion

(image credit: de-motivational-posters.com)

“It’s Because I’m Black!”

One time I was at the front of the line at my grocery store, making my week’s purchases. Next in line was a lady with a small child, and she had a full cart as well. Behind her stood a lady with just two items. That lady said to me, “Excuse me, would you mind if I went ahead of you?

Normally I would say yes. No problem at all. I do that all the time. I even suggest it to people who don’t ask. But in this situation I would be speaking not only for myself, but for lady number two. For all I knew her child was sick or she was in a hurry, or a whole host of other possible scenarios. I tried to catch her eye to see if it was okay with her, but she would not look up. Awkward.

Before I could say even one word, lady number three sensed my hesitation and completely lost it. She started shouting in the middle of the store. “She’s only doing this because I’m black! There is no justice! It’s not right!” And she threw her two items on the ground and stormed out.

I was stunned. And I have to admit, overflowing with righteous indignation. Anyone who knows me at all would know that her race wasn’t even remotely a part of my hesitation. How dare she even think that? She didn’t even know me!

Since that day I’ve had several thoughts about that incident:

  • That was one of the few times in my life I’ve been on the receiving end of blatantly aggressive prejudice, and it did not feel good at all.
  • I can’t imagine what it must be like to experience that sort of foolishness on a daily basis throughout one’s life.
  • Because that woman had probably experienced that kind of prejudice herself all too frequently, perhaps I should cut her just the tiniest bit of slack.

But on my most colorblind days what I really think, to be honest, is that that lady had a rather severe personality disorder, and was rude and extremely hostile. So if I ever were to run into her under similar circumstances, I’m afraid my generous nature would probably take a holiday and I’d make her obnoxious butt wait her turn just like everyone else. Silly cow.

I’m quite sure her mother did not teach her to behave like that. And I’m even more sure that discourteous and aggressive behavior is not acceptable no matter who you are and what you’ve experienced in life.

Sorry, but sometimes having a genuine lack of bias can also be demonstrated by not bending over backwards for someone simply to avoid being viewed as a racist. True equality comes when the world expects you to suck it up and deal with the ugly bits of life just like the people who are standing with you in the very same line.

We are all in this together.

grocery line

(Photo credit: lehighvalleylive.com)