March 8, 2013

Zen and the Art of Dealing With Jerks

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Originally, this was going to be a post about how I’m using my knowledge of ancient scholars to teach BabyGirl how to deal with one kid who lives life as a victim. However, I don’t want the school or some outraged mom screaming at me, or worse, BabyGirl. So as I was talking to her last night about dealing with this person I kept telling her that learning how to deal with this type of person now would server her well throughout her life.

BabyGirl kept telling me that it’s not so easy to ignore this kid. I understand that. When you spend hours every day in a class with 16 other kids, ignoring one of them isn’t as easy, or practical, as mom and dad make it seem. And in reality, even when there are 100 people in your office and you’re trying to ignore the office jerk it’s much easier said than done. But we all know it has to be done.

I decided to read her a book called Zen Shorts, which I started reading to her when she was about 4. It’s a short children’s book with a lovable panda named Stillwater. Stillwater teaches the neighbor-kids important lessons by telling them stories found in Buddhist or Taoist teachings. It’s a wonderful book because the 3 lessons shared are ones that, if learned early enough, can spare our kids a lot of heartache.

The last story of the book is about letting go and not holding on to the anger and frustration that often exists when we deal with people who aren’t nice. While I try to surround myself with helpful and kind people, the reality is that there are jerks in the world and sometimes they invade my space of awesome. And it’s annoying and frustrating and it bothers me and it makes me think about them and how I wish I was Samantha from Bewitched and could just turn them in to a toad. And then I pause to breathe and realize how ridiculous all these thoughts are and how I need to stop.

I explained to BabyGirl that I’m pretty sure this kid didn’t even mention her name or talk to anyone about the jerk behavior exhibited at school. That this kid was probably cozy in bed asleep not giving her one thought, yet here she was angry and frustrated because this kid relishes in the victim role and is overtly rude and mean and takes every look, breath and cough as a personal affront. I needed her to put him down.

One day two traveling monks reached a town and saw a young woman waiting to step out of her sedan chair. The rains had made deep puddles and she couldn’t step across without spoiling her silk robes. She scolded her attendants, who were burdened with heavy packages they were holding for her so they couldn’t help her cross.

The younger monk noticed the young woman, but walked past without speaking. The older monk stopped and quickly picked her up on his back, carrying her across the water and put her down on the other side. Not only did she not thank the monk, she shoved him out of her way and quickly departed.

As the two monks continued on their way, the younger monk was brooding and preoccupied. After a long time, he finally spoke out. “That woman was selfish and rude, but you picked her up and carried her! She didn’t even thank you.”

“I set the woman down hours ago,” the older monk responded. “Why are you still carrying her?”

Just as the story in Zen Shorts, she has continued to carry this jerk with her long after she should have put him down. She continued to be burdened by one person’s choice to be miserable and make others miserable too. We’ve all been there. And the sooner BabyGirl is able to realize that she controls her thoughts the better her days are going to be.

Reading the story and talking about how we shouldn’t let other people’s choices affect our feeling was also a reminder to me not to put some things down. People who are jerks in 4th grade are likely to continue to be jerks throughout high school and into adulthood. We hope that somewhere along the way the jerk hat gets thrown away, but that’s not always the case. This leaves us having to deal with people who are not nice or who are manipulative, vindictive or play the role of victim any chance they get.

I wish someone had told me when I was 10 that I’m not the Jerk Whisperer. Sure would have made a lot of things easier. So I’m telling BabyGirl that she’s not the Jerk Whisperer and she’s not the manager of toxic waste for Jerktopia. Maybe in these terms she’ll understand that some people just need to be put down, walked away from and never given another thought.

Disclosure: The link to Zen Shorts is an Amazon Affiliate link. If you decide to buy the book, I may receive a commission for your purchase. For that, I thank you.

Sara

{ 5 comments }

Christi @ Love From The Oven March 8, 2013 at 4:44 pm

I love that! Lesson I need to learn as well – maybe they can learn more this year than expected. Probably won’t help on AIMS, but no doubt probably more useful.

Sara March 12, 2013 at 1:29 pm

Christi, if only this was on the AIMS test. Problem is that someone who is a jerk might be offended, and we can’t have that! Maybe the more we teach it the more we’ll absorb it? I think there is hope for us! ~ Sara

Annabel Candy, Get In the Hot Spot March 9, 2013 at 8:55 pm

Hi Sara,

Headline of the week award for this one 🙂 Loved the read too. I know my ability to get irked by jerks or shrug them off is about how good I’m feeling with myself. If we’re tired, sad etc it’s harder.

And love the jerk whisperer idea too. So often I want to help them and fix their problems so get more involved than I should.

Your BabyGirl is a lucky one. I know just being able to talk about what a jerk someone else is defuses their power too and makes you appreciate the lovely people.

x A

Sara March 12, 2013 at 1:27 pm

Hi Annabel, thank you for reading and commenting on my post. I agree that how I’m feeling about myself often impacts how I respond and process the jerkiness of people. I, too, want to help them see the error of their ways, but as I get older I’m realizing it’s not possible to fix these people. My hope is to help BabyGirl gain the insight and power much earlier in life and avoid years of frustration. Appreciating the lovely people and surrounding herself with positive people is a message I’d like to keep teaching.

~Sara

Fraiser July 12, 2013 at 5:38 am

“Education is what survives when what has been learnt has been forgotten.” – words by B.F. Skinner

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