Sunday, June 23, 2013

Lessons From An Asshat

This post should be subtitled "Don't Let Anyone Steal Your Joy" - a reminder to me of how very necessary it is establish boundaries. Let me explain...

Yesterday was the spring grading at my teaching dojo. A young man with a minor mental challenge -  who started in my old dojo and came to join us about two and a half years ago at the school training partner Ed and I started - graded for Shodan - our first. It was a very big deal - and as a result, we invited all of the amazing martial artists we've trained with and under over the past decade to come and see him test. Most of them accepted - including the instructor I parted ways with last October. It was an amazing time - with 27 other students grading as well, and we ran almost completely on schedule and without a hitch - at least until it was all over and everyone had said their goodbyes.

I had personally thanked everyone of the black belts who ventured north to be a part of the day's events, but once the chairs and mats were put away and the place was cleaned up, I followed up with a few (individual) texts to everyone saying the same. My former instructor didn't just respond with "You're welcome - and thanks for inviting me/I was honored to attend!" as most everyone else did; he had to toss in his take on why he thought our karate affiliation ended. Totally ego-driven, erroneous and unnecessary, his words made me see red and slide right into "fight or flight" tunnel vision mode. I. Was. FURIOUS.

My very first impulse was to call him up and rip him a new one, but I knew there was no way to do that without a profanity-ridden tirade which would cause me to not be heard at all. So I decided to ignore his ignorance and keep it moving. Unfortunately, I ended up thinking about it for the rest of the damn day before the real reason I was so upset finally hit me: ignoring his foolishness was ALWAYS the way I'd handled similar nonsense - and it only seemed to net more of the same nonsense. When someone else called him on his crap (usually training partner Ed), he would quickly and profusely apologize - before repeating the nastiness again, catching us all in a wash/rinse/repeat vicious cycle of "I treat ya badly --> apologize --> start the crazy all over again." And you know why? Because we allowed him to.

After my divorce, my son and my ex went through a very rocky period that lasted for years. When my son got a little older - mid-teens or so - and the "Why does my dad treat me like this?" questions started to intensify, I finally had a heart-to-heart sit-down chat with him. We talked for hours, and this is what I finally said: People will treat you as badly as you let them. Really, the point I was trying to hammer home to him was that although he could not control his father's actions one iota, he most certainly had control over how he reacted to them - as well as the ability to check the madness and call his dad on it so it was understood that it simply wasn't going to be tolerated anymore.

So yesterday, my now almost 20 year old son quoted that very same advice I'd given him right back to me (he's an amazing young man!). As a result, I took my time and responded to my former instructor via text - as respectfully as I could (ummm...without the profanity, basically) - with what loosely amounted to a "Look, I cannot allow you to act like an asshole to me anymore. Let's just call it a day and lose each other's contact info, OK?" What he does from here is not my concern or my problem. This conversation was one that most certainly should have happened face-to-face, but I wasn't capable of it yesterday, and I won't be tomorrow, or next week or even the week after that - and I felt this had to be addressed post haste. Writing it out gave me a chance to calm down and organize my thoughts without being too reactionary or explosive. Truthfully, I'm kinda proud of myself for saying what I felt and not letting this one go.

I'm sure we will eventually have that face-to-face conversation, and when we do, I'm pretty sure I will be as calm as I am now, because I learned a valuable lesson in all this: confronting an asshat is a lot like confronting a bully: it is hard as hell, but necessary if you want the asshat-ery to stop.

People will treat you as badly as you let them - so don't let them treat you badly.


  1. He isn't worth any more effort than you've put in, Felicia. Toxic people are best walked away from. Well done - I think you did exactly what you needed to do. Hopefully he is out of your life for good. Congratulations on your first black belt student!

  2. From my friend Julia via Facebook:
    I tried to post a comment on the site, but not sure it took. Basically, you are spot on! We deal with this with LMM #1 (ADHD) and middle schoolers. You have to stand up for yourself, or you become culpable in the way you are treated by others. Kudos to you for speaking up, and double kudos for doing it in as dignified a manner as you could (given all the circumstances). And, yes, it's truly wonderful when a child you have spent years of blood, sweat and tears raising to be a caring, productive member of society becomes YOUR mirror. Awesomeness, all the way around!

  3. Bravo and well handled, Felicia. Your training to date has let you reach this level, above the pettiness of others.

    1. Thanks, Yambushi. Ironically, half of my life on the mat was spent training under him. He's still an asshat, though...

  4. Having ridden the same roller coaster, I can appreciate the points you make/revisit. Blog it's a good reminder and a way to vent. The only way I'd probably differ is I'd question myself as to whether my response was an effort to 'get the last word' - as his obviously was (for him).

    The 'spam' filter is where he would end up in my world. ;)

    1. Already done - and contact info deleted. I'm totally through - and said what I needed to. It WAS the last word because all attempts he's made to do the "Wait - I'm sorry/let me explain" have been deleted (text and voicemail). Life is complicated enough. I have no time for that foolishness anymore.