Assholes, A Priest, an Analyst, and a Handful of Publishing Folks Walk into a Bar…

What the unlikely taught me about self worth, forgiveness, and most of all assholes

The other day, I said something controversial and something that I am more than qualified to sayanyone who will ever work with you, will look at your social media or online presence to determine if they want to work with you. This lesson has been shoved down the throat of every child born from 1990 to present day—it’s hardly a take. 

But bring in the assholes that distort reality to fit their narrative and suddenly to a very miniscule group of people, you are enemy number one to a bunch of town criers—begging for anyone to stop and listen to them because they’re inadequate and desperately want some form of validation. If we’re being honest about it.

It was 7am on a Tuesday morning, I ring up my agent, “How stupid do you have to be to not understand something intentionally written at a 1st grade reading level?” I sigh, truthfully I let the harshness towards me get to me— I knew what I said wasn’t a crazy upsetting take that anyone could target toward themselves. You have to work hard to take offense to it. But I couldn’t stop feeling this ache of being hurt and I couldn’t understand why I even cared so much that people were making up lies about me.

She laughed.

“I didn’t do anything, why are people calling me a fake agent? What does that even mean?”

She continued to laugh.

Pausing for a second, recognizing my concern, she continued, “This happens all the time, it’s not about you.”

The same statement echoed from heads of the largest publishers in the world—each offering me the comforting statement that it was merely projection, and they see it all the time.

I’m naturally an everyone has dignity and deserves respect person. I carry bugs out into the yard, sparing them from death just for being small. While I’m a firecracker ready to go for the throat, I’m controlled enough to not strike. I genuinely think everyone is actually good to their core. When I’m met with anything that proves the opposite, my brain combusts and I want to cry.

I don’t understand mean people nor do I understand assholes. 

I kept coming back to why it hurt so much and why I couldn’t get it out of my head— I couldn’t pinpoint why I cared so much. Of course it was projection and it meant nothing about me, but I wanted the situation settled and to go away.

During my holy hour turned holy three hours, I remembered Father John Burns completed his doctorate on forgiveness. So I typed his name into Youtube and clicked the first video that popped up.

He hit the nail on the head.

“Anger leads to resentment, and that’s a vice. Forgiveness is the virtue that undoes resentment. Basically resentment is just a re-feeling of the sorrow and the anger that are connected to the original injury…But when we kind of think through the injury like someone did something to me that I didn’t deserve and wasn’t fair and it hurts me, I’m angry at them, pay me back. I hope you know what you did. You better suffer for it. Underneath that though, there’s a gentler, a more tender emotional reaction, which is, I’m sad that happened, like it broke my heart that you did that to me, that you took that away…”

I was stuck on my hurt because the pinnacle of my personal values—dignity—was taken away from me. To me the value of dignity is something your average kindergartener can wrap their mind around. It isn’t a difficult concept and I couldn’t understand why someone would go out of their way to remove dignity from another.

After the borrowed prayer from Father Burns, it hit me…

People who lack dignity, will attempt to shatter other’s dignity so they don’t have to face their lack.

Similarly, people who lack morals don’t like seeing other peoples morals on display.

People who lack beauty, don’t like seeing beauty in others and the world.

People who lack ideas, will shove down ideas.

It’s something constantly displayed throughout the culture.

The idea isn’t new.

But I finally understood why up until now I was so afraid of being seen or perceived. 

There will always be people who lack and want to make it your problem.

They are impossible to reason with.

The Boring Technical Shit

Neuroscience calls it a cognitive distortion—to some, it can even appear as a minor psychosis episode. 

What happens when someone is triggered or jealous, is there is increased activity in the cingulate cortex and lateral septum, areas of the brain associated with social pain and pair bonding. 

Additionally, the feeling of hate is mediated by the inferior frontal cortex (IFC), which processes language and social cognitive processing. 

—Meaning, someone who chooses to hate you, very legitimately, cannot comprehend anything outside of the idea their brain has painted. 

This also causes a “animalistic” infrahumanization that results in withholding empathy from the devalued targets. 

Although there isn’t much research on hate from a neurological standpoint, literature suggests that hate depends on sufficiently dehumanizing others in order to permit their elimination.

Sternberg’s duplex theory goes on to define hate the same way as Father Burns—as a triangular structure with anger and fear, repulsion and disgust, and devaluation through contempt (Bayarassou et al., 2020).

While in his book Grooming, Gossip, and the Evolution of Language (Harvard University Press, 1996), psychologist Robin Dunbar of the University of Liverpool in England suggested that gossip is a mechanism for bonding social groups together, analogous to the grooming that is found in primate groups. 

Sociologists believe the desire to gossip, lie, or cause harm to someone developed as an attempt to find a community that would accept us and hide the wounds or attributes that would otherwise leave us abandoned. 

Similarly, Anthropologist Christopher Boehm of the University of Southern California, has proposed in his book Hierarchy in the Forest: The Evolution of Egalitarian Behavior (Harvard University Press, 1999) that gossip evolved as a “leveling mechanism” for neutralizing the dom­inance tendencies of others. He goes on to say “In such societies, the manipulation of public opinion through gossip, ridicule and ostracism became a key way of keeping potentially dominant group members in check.”

What’s The Point of This?

No matter how you break it up, spiritually or in dry neuroscience, anthropology, or biology—people distort reality to protect themselves and look for others to share their insecurity.

They don’t like facing what they dislike about themselves or to relive a hurt—for example, feeling stupid or rejected by someone smarter than them or more eloquent.

In my case, I was the symbol of every person who ever rejected that group and they, like Father John Burns suggests, wanted to right a wrong that they believe was done to them. The issue is, it was misplaced on someone who wasn’t related to their hurt.

Meaning, they will never right that wrong—it only hurts them more because that longing for resolution is still aching.

When you think about it that way, how fucking stupid is that?

While I’m not necessarily calling myself more moral or somehow better, I think there’s a great wisdom from breaking down real life stuff into technicals because it allows us to have empathy for others and not stay stuck in a mindset. 

Ultimately, challenging our own bias and perceptions, calling ourselves out, and feeling through feelings prevents us from being fucking stupid.

Marcus Aurelius, the famous stoic and Emperor, once said, “When you meet an enemy, the best revenge is to not be like them.”

While Ryan Holiday is infamous for stoic viewpoint on haters, borrowed from Marcus Aurelius,

“We know one in 25 people is a sociopath. What percentage of people are having a bad day, or being a jerk, or had bad parents, or just rude, or awful? A certain percentage of the population. So when you see those people, you just say ‘look that’s them. I’ve met one.’ Now it increases the chances that the next person I meet will not be one of those people.”

Truthfully, I can look at this situation and many like it, say fuck this person, fuck everyone like them. I don’t need to throw philosophy, neuroscience, biology, and sociology at anyone to prove I’m smarter or better.

I don’t need to say “Look how much moral I am.” Or call out a wrong and injustice.

Or call out self absorbed stupidity and pointless hatred. 

But I am.

Because we can’t argue with idiots, cognitively they don’t know their idiots unless they reflect on themselves and their behavior. 

That’s a muscle that develops over time. It’s a process to learn to enjoy examining oneself and others in the pursuit of rightness. 

You do discover many times you were wrong, or swayed incorrectly, or responded inappropriately—and you have to sit with that guilt and sorrow, ultimately repenting.

For years I’ve had words thrown around because my beauty or intelligence or my religious morals. But I could never find any advice for how to deal with it or an understanding of why it hurt so bad. 

I knew my truth, that I wasn’t hurting anyone, I’ve played microscopic to avoid bumping into walls or even accidentally hurting someone—but the relentlessness of others came.

When disclosing to a therapist, trusted mentors or friends, I was always met with a laugh and well obviously and some ramble about jealous idiots.

Some ramble about how it was never about me.

But no one told me, if it wasn’t about me, why did it hurt so bad?

After all, if someone says you’re bright orange or some ridiculous untrue—we recognize the person is an idiot. But when it’s about our personhood, we struggle to separate the insult or lie with our actual selves.

But the truth is, I’m so damn tired of being invisible because other people don’t want to see me. More so because their reasoning isn’t rooted in me, rather because people don’t like seeing what they lack presented in front of them.

There’s a reason most people who work in finance don’t struggle with feeling the effects of others bullying or people being assholes. It’s rooted in the basic material they studied in order to place a single trade.

I mean, it’s actually day 1 material that over the course of many years of study and application is built up and solidified.


It’s the game of the stock market. Understanding value from every facet. 

Depending on the type of trade, they factor shareholder value, the value of a firm, fair value, and market value. But everyone always factors in “real value” or intrinsic value.

When trading, it’s considered good if a stocks market value (or what the market is currently valuing the stock at) is lower than the intrinsic value (or what the stock is valued at based on complex fundamental analysis.) 

Essentially, the people who know their shit—the banks come out and say AAPL is valued at $90 per share. They raise or lower the rating based on factors in the market. If you catch AAPL at $50 a share, you purchase the shit out of it. Add in the technicalities of pumping a stock or manipulating a market, and you get a decent idea of how objective traders need to be when it comes to value.

Over the course of years in practice, they’re able to look at themselves in the same light. If you meet a market maker, VP, hedge fund manager, or longtime trader, you’ll notice they carry themselves in sort of absolute value understanding.

They know who they are, their strengths, weaknesses, and nothing shakes their sense of self. They know who has say in their life and who is noise. They understand personal value better than anyone.

A trader or a stoic or priest is able to understand they have a set value. It’s not altered. It just is. 

They don’t try to hide it or smother it.

They own it.

They surrender to it.

Christians are a son or daughter of a God that died for them.

Stoics view them as controllable while outside them, everything just happens. They cannot alter it.

A good trader allows the market to move and don’t fixate when it doesn’t.

If I really look at it, I don’t want to be an asshole. I don’t want to be as pathetic as them or crying into town squares hoping someone agrees with me because my brain is incapable of looking my faults critically.

I think they’re stupid and pathetic and not worth the words out of their mouth.

We are not asshole whisperers.

I don’t know many things, despite knowing a lot and having a brain that enjoys the process of understanding and examining. But I know I do good and I strive to do the best I can do. There’s this idea in our culture that if we’re aware of our value or we speak out in regards to our beauty, brains, ethics, or the short-comings of others, then we are assholes ourselves or prideful.

So there’s a natural fear of leaning into accepting yourself or not cowering away from others. But as Marcus Aurelius said, ”When you meet an enemy, the best revenge is to not be like them.”

Prayer for The Day: Holy Spirit, show me what went wrong in the order of charity. Show me what justice was transgressed, show me how you, Lord, see what happened. (Because often we remember these things because of rumination, our memory is intensified, and the emotions are intensified around the memory.)

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