So, what is a jerk? I thought it might be of value to define this person in our lives.
According to the dictionary, a jerk is a “stupid, foolish, or unconventional person.” Okay. Think Steve Martin in the movie, “The Jerk.” But I am too much of a wordsmith to let that stand. When most of the people in my circles use the word, and my circles are fairly large, they mean someone negative. The bad driver, the person who cuts in line, the unhelpful salesperson, the manipulative co-worker, the condescending loan officer, the abusive patrolman, the critical father- or mother-in-law, and on and on. These are the people we call “jerks.” Usually we don’t say it to their faces, but we say it when we talk about them to others or when we walk away muttering. When we do, we are not thinking of them as loveable, but simple, people.
Usually the word refers to a man, I suppose. There doesn’t seem to be a female term matching it, although more people are using “jerkette.” So, let’s say right now that we can use “jerk” generically, without reference to gender. Since jerks are often aggressive and confrontational, they are usually men. It may be fair to say that 75% of jerks are men.
A jerk, by my definition, is someone who depersonalizes others. As he drives, he ignores the dangers his driving creates for others. As he cuts in line, he seems oblivious to the fact that the rest of us have been waiting longer. As she criticizes, she doesn’t care about how you feel. A jerk will hurt you, embarrass you, or use you—just for the laugh or the strange good feeling it brings to him. In the heart of a jerk, you are not a person with needs or feelings. You are a tool, an obstacle, an opportunity, an inconvenience.
Dr. House is a jerk. So is Dilbert’s pointy-haired boss. Charlie Brown’s Lucy is a jerk(ette). We wait for them to get some just consequences, but it doesn’t happen. Jerks usually manage to blame their problems on others, even you. They often escape negative consequences by twisting truth and projecting their actions on others. Some of them are very adept. We call them narcissists. Narcissists are jerks.
Sometimes we can’t avoid them. You may have to work with one, live with one, go to church with one. Just remember that the jerk does not define you by his actions or words. He defines himself.
This is the first of our new Narcissist Fridays. It only seems right that a day should be dedicated to narcissists, particularly the day many people are able to leave them behind (at least for the weekend). And, after all, since the DSM-5 will not list them as having a personality disorder, we wouldn’t want them to be ignored altogether!
So, I will try to have a special entry just about narcissism each Friday. Tell your friends!