taking joy in human unreason

Inherent Worth and Dignity

I’ve been struggling for a while to quantify something I’m taking issue with lately, and I finally think I hit the nail on the head.

Imagine, if you will, that you work with someone in a standard American corporate environment. Let’s call her Jane. (Jane’s a good, strong name. Speaks to her background.)

Now, you totally get that Jane’s probably a good person outside your work environment (yeah, sure), but at work, she’s a total loser. Can’t do her job, whines all the time, and really just gets in the way of progress. You’re there to get a job done, and Jane’s clearly just killing time and collecting a paycheck.

She’s absolutely worthless, and then has the gall to dislike you for being good at your job. Not your fault she sucks and you had to fix her mistakes.

I’ve seen this scenario played out a hundred different ways, and am not immune to it myself. Someone else doesn’t make the choices I do, doesn’t perceive themselves as I do, or doesn’t perceive me as I do, and that person loses their personhood to me. They get diagnosed as a Failure, Stupid, or Worthless, and that diagnosis is the reason why they don’t see the world as I do.

I’ve worked really hard over the last year to stop that hateful cycle in my own thinking.

I still don’t know what to do when I encounter it in others.

Someone being different than you doesn’t reduce their inherent worth and dignity as a person, even if they repeatedly make mistakes or screw things up.

It’s very, very difficult to sit down with someone and try to show them the other side. People throw up defenses, think you’re making excuses for the Janes of the world, and deny that there’s even a problem with the situation.

This is all far easier to handle when it’s a true friend, someone you can call a jerk to their face, point out the shit they said verbatim, and expect that even if they bluster their way out of the conversation at the moment, that they’ll think on it later and come back to either 1) argue against you more, or 2) never mention it again except in careful remarks on a different situation in the future (meaning your point was at least heard).

But what do you do when it’s someone you’re less connected to, like an acquaintance, coworker, or dance/book club/roleplaying buddy? On the one hand, I’m not super-invested in the person’s future. On the other hand, I do give a damn about them and the situation, and it’s very frustrating to be around vitriolic people who don’t realize that they’re treating people poorly.

  • Andrew

    I’ve been having nearly the opposite problem: I started off thinking the best of everyone, and am progressively getting ever more frustrated by the disappointment. In the end, I just tell myself that such people are in the wrong job (or place, in my case).

    But I’d certainly like to know any insights you gather on the topic, as I’m in a barrel full of dysfunction that could use it. If the insanity can be contained – even a little – my workplace would rock.