TRIGGER WARNING: This post contains what I think are some “inconvenient truths”. It is likely to make you very uncomfortable. It makes me uncomfortable, too. Please remember that you do not have to accept my logic or opinions. If you disagree, you are welcome to comment, as long as you keep your comments respectful. Educate us. Help us understand. Point us in the direction of evidence we didn’t know about and therefore haven’t considered. Give us some space to process new information. Don’t judge and dismiss us based on one word, one thought, our confusion, or our differences. Let’s strive for unity.
I drafted this post before we elected Donald J. Trump to serve as the 45th President of the United States. Like many people worldwide, I was shocked by the election result. I did not vote for him, and I absolutely cannot condone many of his behaviors. Nevertheless, our democratic process produced him as our next President, and as an officer of the New York State Courts and a citizen of this country, I will respect that process. I will give him a chance to make us proud, as he proposes he will do. To assist in my choice to accept him–despite my fears for the civil, human, and legal rights of millions–I remind myself some key points about people we label jerks, misogynists, and more:
- They aren’t jerks all of the time. Many days in my childhood, I considered my abuser my best friend. We played, rode bikes, and laughed together. We shared meals, toys, and more. This is why is was so difficult for me to comprehend the stealing, attempted drownings, and emotional abuse. We want it to be easy to recognize dangerous people, so we can lock them away from everyone else. Thank goodness we don’t rely on single moments to define (most of) us…
- Sometimes, we are the jerks. Remember that nosepicker in your middle school class? The one you called “Digger” and excluded from your circles of friends–often in very cruel ways? You were the bully you now shame at your kids’ schools. We want to believe we are good people, and most of the times we are, but sometimes we overreact and overcompensate to defend our own bad behavior, even if others don’t know we ever participated in it.
- A jerk’s behavior is not a part of him or her. As my friend and coach reminds me, if we cut a person open, we are not going to find a jerk part, next to the heart and lungs or even in the DNA. It’s not permanent. We can change our behavior, just like we change our hairstyles or colors, our living environments, or our careers. It might not be easy, but it can usually be done. We think others’ behaviors are immutable traits, yet we argue incessantly for forgiveness of our own errors.
- Many “jerks” will do what they can to please you, as long as you make the process clear, easy, and compatible with their values. My abuser and I now have a loving relationship, on terms that work for our lives as they are now. We visit a few times per year and exchange messages when we’re apart. We want the best for each other and ourselves–except when we are scared, sick, overwhelmed, hurting, or otherwise too consumed by our own worlds to adequately consider the other.
- When we are jerks (and all of us are sometimes), we probably aren’t consciously choosing the best behaviors under the circumstances. We have likely defaulted to bragging our embellishing to make us seem more of something than we think we are. In some cases, we might put on an aggressive display of our sexual desirability, wealth, intelligence, athleticism, or worthiness. In other cases, we might act in desperation, forgetting we have choices–or pretending we don’t have them because they take more time and effort than we want to give. We will risk civil unrest, jail time, divorce, job loss, or death in a moment that later causes regret we can’t easily admit.
In short, we are jerks when we’ve given up, forgotten, or disconnected from our true power, which comes not from titles, money, lovers, or possessions. Our power is in our consciousness and the choices we make with it. So, in this moment, I choose to go high when others go low. I choose to be an example of the world I want to live in, committed to peace and love, even when it is difficult. I will be a space for Mr. Trump to succeed as our President, as when he wins, we all win. xo