It's easy to hate other people and the older I get, the easier it is. I am a nasty, homebound, grumbling curmudgeon.
Everywhere I turn, there's a jerk, lazy leech, sarcastic teen or self-righteous hypocrite. Oh, and over there is a vapid airhead, a redneck drunkard, a pretentious hipster and a self-important blowhard on a cell phone. The world is a plague of annoying people. But the real winners are on the news -- the corrupt, cocaine sniffing politicians, serial killers and rapists, war criminals, kidnappers, human traffickers. Is there any good in the world?
I am the kind of person who makes snap judgments. I don't want to, but it just happens. I meet a new person and believe they are nice and kind and generous and everything I want a person to be. But then, this new potential friend says she wants to get breast implants instead of funding college tuition. And I'm done -- I'm sorry, I can't be your friend. I can't even talk to you now. Big breasts instead of college? Are you serious?
This is my fatal flaw: my cynical, misguided and pompous tendency to discount the merits of another human being based on one trait that I can't accept. And why? Am I special? Was I endowed with superior moral fiber? Am I qualified to determine who is a good person and who is a jerk?
I have many flaws that someone would consider fatal. I am cold and unfriendly. I make sarcastic jokes that sound mean. I don't really listen that well. Based on a bare framework of a few vague characteristics, I can be interpreted as a real rotten human being.
But I'm not. And neither are those people I pretentiously discount as unworthy of my affection. But deep down, I know I am only tossing them out because I just don't have the time or energy, or the desire, to once again be disappointed. Snap judgments protect me.
A former pastor of mine said the average person only has enough energy left -- after work and family -- for six close friends. I thought he was joking: I only have energy for my husband, family and career, and no friends. On to the sad story: I have many times devoted myself to a new friend, who, when the circumstances that brought us together were eliminated, excised me surgically from her life. I prefer to avoid the sting of rejection.
But despite the emotional baggage I carry around, the desire to protect myself from yet another passive dumping by a former friend, the active judgment and dismissal of almost perfect strangers isn't a sound life practice. Though the world is full of jerks, you still need -- and want --their company. You have to at least hold out an accepting hand.
As I get older I realize there are plenty of flaws in the people I love -- and I still love them, despite those annoyances. I'm certain I can find one nice thing about someone I dislike -- that one admirable trait, or common interest, or redeemable quality -- that can transform the jerk from enemy to acquaintance. Yes, I said acquaintance. I told you -- I have no energy left for friends. The curmudgeon will live on.
JH Mae is a Banner columnist.