“…would it not be likely that their lives are crap”?

November 24, 2010

Ever have a momentary experience with a very challenging person? 

My wife went through two of these in the last two days and came home upset as a result.  One was with an irreverent receptionist at a dental office who seemed to fancy herself for her brashness and exaggerated snippy and sarcastic comments, all in the paper-thin guise of humour.  She made derogatory comments about our dental insurance plan and a scheduling question.  My wife was so taken aback, that she didn’t even know what to say in the moment and just left.  You know those experiences?

The other was in a business situation in which someone threatened to diss our name in the profession we are in.  They made some completely unfounded accusations about us hiring someone away from them, when in reality, the prospective employee approached us and offered up this person as a reference.

What’s my point?  In debriefing these disturbing incidents with my wife, the question that begged to be asked was,

“If these  momentary experiences with these people were typical of how they are, would it not be likely that their lives are crap”?

It was only natural that my wife and I thought of several retaliatory comebacks to these people.  None of which we are following through on.  Why would we?  Their behaviours are likely to carry their own consequences far greater than any rebuttal or reprimand that we could give.  And how is it even worth our time or energy?  We have a tremendous number of priorities with family, business, home, and life.  Where does correcting, reprimanding, or telling-off a stranger fit amongst our priorities.  It doesn’t.

The threat to bad-mouth us was in all likelihood benign.  Besides which, who is likely to take seriously such an erratic person.  Especially if this behaviour is typical.  Is it not more likely that if she did say anything, that others would just roll their eyes, and dismiss her comments as more bitterness from a disturbed person.  And we have an otherwise flawless name in our profession.  Do we not have confidence in who we are and what  our capabilities are?  Are we going to be dissuaded by one unbalanced, rude, probably sick person?

And for the dental receptionist, we may simply and calmly either find a new dentist, or calmly describe the episode to the dentist at next visit.  Surely, this will not be the first this dentist has heard of the receptionists tone and behaviour.

"My life sucks and I am making sure it stays this way"!

Can you imagine what the families of these two people go through?  If the families in fact still have anything to do with them.  Their kids, their spouses?  Seriously, if these were just momentary samplings of their behaviours, what must it be like to be them or be around them continuously?  Clinically speaking, their lives must suck.

Recovery has taught me that I seldom need to retaliate and that the behaviour of the foolish and unhealthy will be its own consequence.  My main responsibility is to myself and my family.  I am not the equalizer of the universe.  I am not the messenger to all who for whom I have a distaste.  And if I have anything to say, it will more often be in a calm, collected frame of mind after processing the initial impact of the disturbing event.  In fact, I am less prone to using words at all, I would just speak with my feet and walk away, leaving them to their own self-imposed misery.

This may sound cold, but a much better alternative to investing time and energy into someone you may never see again or who is not looking to change.





  1. Wiser words were never spoken. Sometimes we get those reminders of why we are getting sober and how to use the tools afforded us to buffer the effects of someone less fortunate than us. Live and Let live and also … But for the grace of God, we could be them.

    very sad, sad indeed.


    • Hi Jeremy… thanks for your reflections.

      Yes, there but by the grace. I find it such a contrast to my pre-recovery mindset to have to prove myself right, even to people I am likely never to see again and have little to no ongoing impact on my life.

      There was a time where I was willing to pour out vast amounts of life energy to prove that I cannot be spoken to or treated this way.

      So buffering is a better way of managing these cirucmstances. The next step may be to return a blessing for their curse. Not quite there yet.

      But a person of true strength should not have something to prove in these circumstances. A person of strength would see their pain and dysfunction. A person of strength would have no need to retaliate. But instead, return their wounding of us with healing for them.



  2. Hi Chaz. Doesn’t sound cold at all. I used to vote with my feet and go home and brood. Now, I’m actually becoming more outspoken as time goes by because that way I don’t waste my time brooding about it later. For example, I might speak to the dentist about the receptionist, or even calmly and politely tell her, “I’m leaving now because you are rude. I didn’t give birth to you or marry you so I don’t really care why you’re rude. I only care that I’m not giving my money to rude people.” That way, I walk out feeling good that I stuck up for myself. It’s that Approaching 50 thing that makes me realize that life is too short to spend it on rude people or brooding about rude people. Thanks, as always, for your thoughtful post. All the best.

    • Thanks Piper….

      I agree that to speak your piece is far better than brooding. Certainly less time and emotional investment. And you may be part of the rendering of a natural consequence to the rude person. Somebody is going to hit the ball back to them. Better for humanity that it be someone who does not have an intent to injur, but rather just reflects back to them how their treatment leaves others feeling.

      The key I suppose is to recognize that if we are wise and strong in ourselves, these things will have minimal lasting impact on our lives. And we don’t need to let them be catalyists that trigger us sinking to these levels by responding in kind.

      Mistreatment by others becomes more benign to us. We have less to prove, especially to strangers. We save our energy and time for those we love and can help.

      In doing so, we are breaking the perpetual cycle of one person hurting another. It stops at us.

      Thanks for stopping by.



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