“Road rage and revenge — taking everything personal”

One of the oddities about the Harry Potter stories is:  Harry thinks Draco Malfoy has absolutely no sense of right vs. wrong, is a coward and is jealous.  And yet all it takes for Draco to drive Harry into a frenzy is — say any little thing insulting him.

To clarify:  Harry thinks there’s nothing at all credible in what Draco says.  And yet all Draco has to do is:  say any little thing about Harry — Harry flies into a rage.

Why does Harry take it personally?

If somebody asked Harry, “What do you think of Draco?”

“He’s a jerk.”

“Is Draco the kind of person whose opinion matters to you?”

“Absolutely NO.”

And yet Harry flies into a rage any time Draco says something.

This is the illogic of “taking it personally.”

We all fall for it.  Indeed, it is the origin of road rage.

If the person in the pick-up truck who cuts us off could stop, get out of the truck and just stand there for us to see him — would our likely conclusion be:  “Here is a person whose opinion I value.  Here is a highly intelligent person who knows me well.  What he says or does regarding me — I value highly” ?

And yet why do we “take it personally” from someone whom we KNOW does not know us personally?

This is the illogic of feeling insulted.

How much of our energy gets stoked up in response to something a person says whom we KNOW does not know us?  The result is:  We ourselves go into such a fury — over someone whose opinion we do not value.

I dare say most of the gestures and comments that enrage us have hardly anything at all to do with US — but are more about the flaws in the other person’s character who feels the urge to gesture or yell.  There’s nothing automatic about what we do that MUST be met with an insult or a middle ringer.  Why can’t their response be patience and understanding?

Their response says more about THEM than it does about US.  Yet we take it personally — as though it’s from someone whose opinion we value.

When my second book came out — a biography of the famed preacher Bruce Thielemann — one person who read the book told me I had too many typing errors in it. (I typed the entire thing myself — 120,000 words!) I felt badly about the criticism.  A few days later, I met one of my favorite professors from the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, who volunteered that he LOVED the book on Thielemann.

I replied glumly, “There were too many typing errors.”

He responded with a smile, “Only Jesus was perfect.”

There’s nothing automatic about what we do for which others MUST criticize.  Why can’t they be patient and understanding?

What they say tells us more about THEM than it does about US.

I have what would be called a “pug nose.”  Growing up, I can’t tell you how many times kids that I didn’t even know would come up and taunt me, “Hey, kid–who hit you?”

I would always take it personally.

Years later, when I was in college, I was the sports information director for Point Park College.  I would travel with the basketball team.  One time, we were playing at Pitt-Johnstown.  I was sitting at the scorer’s table.  Directly across the court, there was a Pitt-Johnstown student who would cup his hands and bellow, “Hey, Porky!  Hey, Porky!”  Continually.  All during first half.

I was furious.  I wanted to go over there and clobber him.  Thankfully, some friends saw what was happening and calmed me down.

Now, if somebody had said to me, “Do you see that student over there insulting you — what do you think of him?”

“He’s a jerk.”

“Do you value his opinion?”

“Absolutely NO.”

“Then, why is what he’s saying getting you so riled up?  You’ve just admitted that his opinion means little — he’s a jerk.”

That is the illogic of “taking it personally.”




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