Don’t let the jerks get the best of you

Real Help for Real Living

A few years ago, after having a bad day, I walked into Books-A-Million at Concord Mills Mall and asked the clerk, “Do you have the book “Don’t Let the Jerks Get the Best Of You” by Paul Meier?” He found their last copy.

In this book, Meier, a psychologist, says all of us are jerks, and all of us are affected by jerks. He defines jerks on three levels.

• First-level jerks: They do not willfully hurt others, but they do. They feel guilt for what they have done.

• Second-level jerks: They willfully hurt others. They will feel guilt, although it may take a few years for guilt to register.

• Third-level jerks: They willfully hurt others and feel no guilt.

Meier goes on to explain that he acted like a second level jerk when he threw a cup of soda out of his driver side window into an open convertible Volkswagen Bug. His reason, it was moving to slow on the highway.

It took his wife a few days to convince him that what he did was willful and very un-Christian. Meier goes on to say that a classic sign of a second-level or third-level jerk is the inability to ever admit that another point-of-view might have some merit. Second- and third-level jerks often lose friends, but they seldom lose arguments Their defenses are just too strong.

A definition of forgiveness that I heard from psychologist Archibald Hart has helped me deal with those who have hurt me. He defines the word as “forfeiting my right to hurt you for hurting me.” I had always thought that forgiving is forgetting, but quickly realized that it’s not.

When we forget, we put ourselves and the people we love in harm’s way. There is a verse of scripture that says, “Don’t cast your pearls before swine, they will trample them under foot, turn and charge against you.” Rather than forget, I’ve used Hart’s definition of forgiveness. The street version of that is “I give up my right to rearrange your face for hurting me.”

If forgiving is not forgetting, what do I do with the relationship with the person who has offended me? Forgiveness and reconciliation are two different things. While God calls me to give up my right to hurt someone for hurting me – forgiveness – I may not always be able to reconcile with the offender. To reconcile, the other person needs to say to me, “I’m sorry; I was wrong.” Without hearing that, I will forgive them, but we may not have reconciliation.

What do you do with those who don’t seek to reconcile their relationship with you? Pray for them. Matthew 5:44 says, “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Other translations say, “Pray for those which spitefully use you or hate, insult or curse you.” I have learned to ask God to bless them.

I’ll be back next month. Until then, live well my friend.

Rev. Tony Marciano is the executive director of the Charlotte Rescue Mission, which provides a free long-term Christian recovery program for me and women who are addicted to drugs and alcohol.

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