Tag Archives: jerks

The Jerk

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. 

Narcissist Fridays!


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!


Filed under Church, heart, Narcissism

What I Learned

Grace and giggles asked: I wonder Dave……what did you learn and /or take away from that experience? Was there some grand lesson in it for your life?

What a great question!  Here are some things I learned:

  1. This pastor was a jerk.  Yes, I believe that is a true statement.  He was so intimidated by the job I had done that he could only respond with accusations and attacks.  He lifted up himself by tearing me down.  I learned that this wasn’t really about me—it was about him.
  2. Jerks can neither run nor ruin my life.  I confess that I have had to learn this over and over.  Jerks have a way of pulling us to a place that is uncomfortable for us, a place where they seem to have power.  They have learned, through the circumstances of their lives, how to manipulate and most of them are pretty good at it.  But that doesn’t mean that I have to do what they say or think what they want me to think.
  3. In the middle of the process, I learned nothing.  I was numb.  I remember some of the things he said (even now 35 years later!), but nothing in his words impacted my ministry performance.  In other words, I made no changes because of what he said.  This is important.  When we are cornered, we have two choices: counter or cower.  If we have the strength, we may counter-attack.  Most jerks are too smart to put strong people into that position.  Instead, they attack subordinates or people they believe are weaker.  That’s why we usually cower, waiting for the next blow.  The words mean nothing as arguments.  Their only meaning is as weapons.  So we learn nothing.
  4. Not only was the pastor an abusive jerk, he was wrong.  I had done well there, so well that he heard about it and was compared to me.  In some ways, I think this was a beginning of being able to separate feedback from real evaluation in my life.  What I mean is that I began to understand that I could not judge the quality of my effort by the responses or criticisms I received.  That’s a challenging thing for most of us to learn.  I have to be reminded of it from time to time. 

So those are the things that come to mind quickly.  It was a tough experience, one of the worst of my life.  Yes, I value it as part of what the Lord used to bring me to grace, but I would never have chosen it and I wouldn’t want to go into another situation like that. 

One of the things I have tried to learn, perhaps partly based on the feelings I had in this experience, is not to do this to others.  Kay mentioned this in her comment.  When I think that I have, I have returned to the person and I have admitted being a jerk and apologized.  To try to motivate someone using shame and condemnation is more than ineffective, it is cruel.  Grace teaches me to value the other person.  Motivating others through love may be difficult for most of us, because it is foreign to the way we were trained, but it is the right way and the best way.

Watch for a post on jerks tomorrow!



Filed under Church, grace, heart, Narcissism