I wouldn’t say I’m a mild-mannered guy, but I’m not one to openly fight. I can’t recall I single time I’ve broken off a relationship over a fight… at least from my side of the story. Maybe it’s because I don’t get that upset when people insult me.
I’ve had the most cruel insults thrown my way in my line of work, by all sorts of people in all sorts of venues. On top of being told these terrible things, they also get printed in newspapers and magazines. Sure, sometimes I get compliments, but generally speaking the the attacks outweigh the commendations. They say “Murakami’s an idiot,” or “Murakami’s a hypocrite,” or “Murakami’s a liar.” They really say those things. Of course it puts me in a bad mood. (If it didn’t make you feel bad there’d have to be something wrong with you)
But when I really think about it, how many people are capable of hearing an insult like “You’re a hypocrite,” and turning around, sticking out their chest, and objecting right back with “No, you’re wrong. I’m no hypocrite!” I’m incapable of that. Instead, I think to myself: “Now that you say that, I guess I might have some hypocritical tendencies.” That’s the truth.
And along that same line of reasoning, I am an idiot, and I am a liar. I am selfish, and stubborn, and capricious, and short tempered, and insensitive, and uncultured, and crude. I forget things that are inconvenient to me and I tell stupid jokes. I’m completely uncooperative. I’m shallow and I don’t think things through. When I reread my novels I discover I’m not even good at those. Yep, I seem like a pretty worthless guy when I go through my list of faults, even the ones that are only more or less true. About the only personality faults I don’t have are alcoholism, child abuse, and a sock fetish.
If you accept those accusations, you no longer have anything to lose. You have no fear of what cruel things will be said about you, and you never get that upset. It’s the same as falling into a pond and getting soaking wet. At that point, someone coming along and ladling some water on you won’t make you any colder. Life is as care-free as you make it. And somewhat counterintuitively, you feel like you you’re doing pretty well for being such a terrible human being.
I’m convinced that misplaced praise is the most harmful thing someone can have inflicted upon them. I’ve seen so many people who squandered what they had because they’d been praised when they shouldn’t have been. People do strange things in response to praise. There are many cases where that leads to them losing sight of who they truly are.
So the next time you feel hurt because some insults you for no good reason (or even for a good one), you should instead try to be thankful that you weren’t praised. I admit that’s next to impossible in practice. But it’s a nice thought.