To Act Like a Jerk is Human; To Forgive, Divine.
The other day, I was talking to someone close to me who saw a longtime friend on the weekend. “I saw a different side of her,” she said. She told me of some interactions in which her friend was defensive and antagonistic.
I told her, “Maybe she was having a bad day. Maybe it was jet lag or PMS. We all have days like that. We’re all sometimes an asshole.”
Afterward, while replaying the conversation in my mind, I remembered a scene from HBO’s Crashing that I watched earlier in the week. I recently binge-watched the final season, season 3, which aired last March.
Not to be confused with the British TV show of the same name that starred Fleabag’s Phoebe Waller-Bridge, HBO’s Crashing is based on the real-life of its creator, comedian Pete Holmes. Some comics and actors play scripted versions of themselves on the show; some actors play scripted characters.
In the season finale, Crashing Pete Holmes is hired to open for a fictionalized version of John Mulaney. Except, due to a miscommunication, someone hired Holmes by mistake. Mulaney meets Holmes backstage and gets angry, calling comedian after comedian in an attempt to get an opener with whose comedy he’s familiar. A series of humorous scenes happen, and Pete’s on stage, opening for Mulaney. Holmes opens his set, responding to the announcer’s introduction of “Ben Holmes”, by explaining the mix-up to the audience.
I’m not saying he’s a dick. He’s not a dick. I’m saying that we all have moments in which we slip into dick, and he slipped into dick…. He had this important show. I get it…
[He proceeds to provide examples of Mulaney’s dick-like behavior.]
We all have moments in which we slip into dick.
What a pull-quote that is. It is so true that we have our moments.
We’re all assholes sometimes. For fictional John Mulaney, it was because he’d envisioned this perfect show, and it wasn’t going the way he expected to.
Things not going our way and being forced to surrender control are certainly reasons to act like an asshole.
“Slipping into dick” is an action that originates from our ego. To name a few reasons, we lash out when we feel threatened, compromised, fear, out of control, “caught”.
It’s okay to lash out sometimes. We’re human. Each time we lash out at someone, it’s a chance to learn about ourselves. Looking inward to determine why, and to face that beast, can help us evolve. When we’re “triggered,” it’s an opportunity to ask ourselves why. I’m a firm believer in questioning, “Why does this trigger me, and how can I avoid that trigger in the future?” It’s an ongoing process that takes practice. Examining what’s behind your triggers isn’t a “one and done” situation. If it were, one therapy session would be enough. Instead, people engage in therapy for years.
Any time we’re unkind to someone, we have the opportunity to do better next time. We have the opportunity to shift from an ego space into a compassion space. Fear into love. Chaos into grace.
If we can, we should apologize for being reactive and unkind. We should also apologize to ourselves and forgive ourselves.
If you’re like me, you often get upset with yourself for being a jerk. I especially get stuck in a shame loop when I offend people.
Sometimes when we offend someone, they get over it before we do. Sometimes we think we’re the biggest piece of shit for saying the wrong thing, and then find out that we barely grazed the person that received the words.
Fictional Holmes finished that opening set with this:
My job is to just not be as good as the headliner. Brother, if you’re looking for someone who’s not as good as John Mulaney, I’m your first call. I am mediocre and forgettable together, like two great tastes.
Like peanut butter and jam, and like peanut butter and chocolate, and like bacon and, well, anything
The episode previous to this one — the penultimate episode as they say — has another one of my favorite scenes of the season. In that scene, Holmes is having lunch in Charleston, South Carolina, with comic Jessica Kirson, playing herself. Kirson gives Pete advice that boils down to this:
“It’s okay to hide part of yourself so that you can get the big paycheque and pay the bills. The bills need to be paid. It doesn’t mean you’re a sell-out.”
I’m paraphrasing, but it’s advice that I feel many need to hear at times. As fictionalized Kirson assured, “I don’t do anything that keeps me up at night.”
Crashing is well worth your time. It’s over, but there are three seasons of half-hour episodes. You’ll know some of the comics in the show that play themselves. You’ll meet new comics playing themselves. You’ll also meet real comics playing fictional ones.
And remember, we all “slip into dick” sometimes. It’s okay.
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