On why you should never be a jerk to others

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Lately, this theme of not being a jerk has popped up a lot in my life. I have a few students on my newspaper staff that have written columns about it. I've heard more and more stories from others about the time they were jerks and really regretted it later. And then, there's always my mom's favorite quote: "Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you know is fighting some sort of battle." 

Now, I realize that there are times when it would be easier, and, perhaps more satisfying to just be a jerk to someone, especially if that person is being a jerk to you. But there is so much that happens behind the scenes in the lives of others that I've learned it's just easier to be kind. 

Case in point, my first year of teaching high school, I had a student who was chronically missing my class. I assumed he was skipping and decided to call home to see what was going on, and the student answered the phone. For whatever reason, I held my pre-rehearsed cocky commentary and asked the student how he was, where he'd been, and if he was okay. We had a brief conversation, and that was the end of it. The next day, I got an email from his mom. She thanked me over and over for calling home to check on her son. In the end, it turned out that the student was suffering from severe depression that, in turn, caused him severe anxiety and often kept him away from school. My heart broke as I thought how I originally planned to yell at this student for what I had assumed was him skipping my class. 

That was a giant, wonderful wake up call for me. I had NO idea what was going on in this child's life. And there are so many times when we DON'T know what's going on in the lives of others. And, call me a softie, but I feel like it's just better to err on the side of caution than to jump to assumptions before I really know what's going on. Maybe that makes me too trusting. Or too soft.

But I'd rather be a big softie than a jerk any day of the week. 


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