Disclaimer: I originally wrote this post way back in 2014, but after a weird encounter with a fellow human the other day, I started thinking about it. Plus, it seems relevant since, myself (and far too many other people) have recently been tying themselves up in knots trying to find the logic in the rantings of Internet trolls.
Like most older siblings (or like most egotistical older siblings) I like to think I am wiser than my younger brother.
I like to think that during the roughly four years I was alive before my brother was born I gleaned so much valuable knowledge that it is virtually impossible for him to ever catch up. You know, because of all the cool stuff I learned before age four…
Admittedly, the theory doesn’t hold much water. It’s further disproved when my brother has the audacity to frequently be much, much smarter than I am. This is very annoying and frankly, kind of rude of him.
Younger siblings are not supposed to be handing up sage advice to older siblings. It throws the whole darn system out of whack. But since the advice my brother gave me the other day was so darn good, I’ll let him get away with it. Just this once.
Essentially what my brother told me was pretty simple. But it was something I needed to hear anyway.
The little knowledge bomb my little bro dropped on me was this: “Some people are just stupid.”
Okay, broken down to its essence it doesn’t sound like much. But he followed it up by saying, “You know, like that theory? That theory that you should never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity?”
No, no I didn’t know that theory. I’d gone 27 whole years without knowing that theory. I Googled it just to make sure he wasn’t screwing with me. He wasn’t. It’s real. It’s called Hanlon’s Razor (named after Robert J. Hanlon who must have been surrounded by stupid people) and it basically explains everything.
It’s also the main reason I haven’t completely lost faith in the human race. It’s way easier to forgive people when they mistreat you if you can just think of them as hapless, hopeless dumb-dumbs who unintentionally hurt you because, you know, they didn’t know better.
When you think people know better and they acted deliberately, it’s a heck of a lot harder to forgive. And I’m already bad at forgiveness. This is not a trait I’m proud of — but it’s a trait I know I have. I suck at forgiveness.
I’m a nit-picker, an over-analyzer, a dead-horse-beater (like the saying. I do not hit real horses. That’d be pretty shitty of me.) It’s not easy for me to forgive people when they are jerks to me because I’m a sucker for the “why.”
I have to know the reason. If someone flips me off while I’m driving when I’m actually driving well it will bug me for hours, if not days. I will not let it drop. I do not let things drop. I will map out the situation with visual aids. I will solicit feedback from multiple, completely-biased-in-my-favor sources. I will make wild, unfounded speculations like “Maybe it wasn’t me. Maybe that lady just has a personal, completely unrelated vendetta against beat-up Toyota Camrys.”
If someone randomly yells an insult at me (like a bunch of teenage boys who are just yelling offensive stuff at everyone because of their pent-up puberty rage, for example) I will spend infinitely more time than I should thinking about it. As in some time. I will actually think about it.
I’ll wonder if it was my fault. I will wonder if I unintentionally did something to offend them, which makes no sense because the only interaction I’ve had with them is them being dicks to me for no reason.
I don’t respond well to people being dicks to me for no reason. For the most part, I just stand there stupidly, blankly like a deer caught in the headlights who is just like “Huuuuuuh?”
Life’s hard enough without people deliberating mistreating each other. It’s just easier (and frankly, kind of lazier) to just try to be nice. That’s why I spend way too much time over-thinking it whenever people happen to jerks to me.
I just don’t get their endgame and I will not stop soliciting opinions on the matter. (Which when I think about it is probably really annoying for the people who have to listen to me—sorry, guys.)
That’s probably why my brother helped me shut up about it. It’s probably why he put the matter of jerkdom-motivation to rest.
It’s probably why he told me it’s all pretty simple: some people are just stupid.
My brother, however, is not one of them.