If someone behaves badly and also drinks or takes drugs, there are support groups to help the people deal with their behavior. They are encouraged not to enable their behavior which may be outright harmful or subtly harmful and abusive because being mistreated builds up and everyone has a breaking point.
If someone has a diagnosed, observable mental illness or addiction that makes them mean, self-absorbed, causes them to steal or cheat, then they are dealt with and people understand that they are sick. And again, the people in their lives have support groups and are given guidelines on how to minimize interactions and limit the ways that this person can take advantage of them.
We may give them sympathy, but sympathy is not permission to continue.
Unfortunately, this is only for people who have a diagnosed mental illness or addiction.
For some reason, we allow people to be “assholes” for years on end and think it’s “normal.” If they can hold down a job and appear reasonable to most people then they are permitted to continue to be an “asshole” to a specific person or a specific group of people and the passive observers just say “ignore him or “don’t let him get to you.” Some dickweed can cause ongoing emotional stress, financial consequences and interfere with a person’s normal life but there is no support for their target except a pat on a back by people who are afraid to stand up to an asshole. Being an asshole isn’t “normal.”
Worse still, they will shame the asshole’s target for having an emotional reaction to the continued mistreatment. They are treated as if their inability to tune out aggressive, harassing, needling, manipulative nonsense is a failure of their own self-control. They are made to feel weak or inadequate for “letting it get to them.”
So, not only does the asshole not have any consequences, but the person suffering is told over and over to “take the high road” which is basically polite code for, “bend over and take it.”
I propose we agree that being an utter and ongoing asshole for years on end is a mental illness and addiction.
It is a mental illness of someone who has a delusional beliefs that his needs are more important than other people’s needs and more important than the greater good. It is an addiction to being right and having his needs catered to. It is an addiction to conflict, anger and self-righteous beliefs. It is a mental illness of someone who believes he is entitled and capable of controlling other people.
It is chronic and there is no cure. We must have sympathy for their sickness but never give permission for it to continue.
With that in mind, the most harmful thing we can do is to imagine that the high road is a place of silence, patience, turning the other cheek or sucking it up. That is enabling and it is harmful to the sick person and everyone in his or her life. It is harmful to the community and to the greater good. It is enabling harmful behavior.
- Being an ASSHOLE is NOT a form of self-expression. Being an asshole is an attitude problem.
- Lacking compassion isn’t a show of strength. Lacking compassion is a display of defeat.
- Giving no fucks is not a badge of honor. Giving no fucks is the symbol of a degraded heart.
- Lacking emotions doesn’t make you superior. Lacking emotions makes you inhuman.
Being an asshole is not “normal.” Being utterly antisocial, over-reactive, impossible to get along with is not “individuality.” If there is shame in giving in to an addict’s unfair demands and if we dismiss the insane person’s ridiculous demands, we should also encourage people to not give in to an asshole’s harmful and ridiculous behavior.
We have a culture of bullies and assholes because we have confused the HIGH ROAD with Indifference Alley.
The high road is one of inaction. But if something is wrong, inaction is weakness and enabling. Indifference is not a virtue.
The high road is not a place of silence. The high road is a place where we demand adult, rational, compassionate, healthy treatment for ourselves and others. You are not “superior” because you can ignore assholes. You are not making the world a better place by having things “slide off your back.” You are being a coward and letting the unruly rule the roost.
So when we see someone being an asshole, it is our duty to confront them and ask them to correct their behavior. Ignoring problems is failing to enforce the rules and it enables and permits more breaches in the social contract. We are expending far too many financial, time and emotional resources enabling assholes by pretending we are superior when we are really just afraid of conflict.