If I Wanted to Hurt You
by Joe Goodson
What if I was a jerk, and wanted to hurt you? And what if you were naïve and didn't know any better?
Read on, and I shall enlighten you.
If I wanted to hurt you, I'd become your friend. I'd pick you because you're different from me. You're happy, and I'm not. You're creative, and I'm not. You're successful, and I'm not. Just seeing you makes me feel lonely: lonely in my misery.
So, I'd become your friend. I'd become your friend so I could make you feel miserable, too. Then, I wouldn't be so lonely. And I could score some really cool points in my cold game of "misery loves company" -- that is, if I wanted to hurt you.
If I wanted to hurt you, I'd do everything to hide this intention. You wouldn't even know you're being abused. I'd convince you I was trying to help you, and would be nice to you -- half the time -- so you wouldn't run away. I would "hoard" these little generous incidents in the back of my mind, and use them as weapons of guilt and manipulation at opportunistic moments in the future. You'd often hear me blurt out, "I was nice to you last week, and now you're letting me down. Why can't you do this for me?"
In the words of my favorite author, Harry Browne, I would "break your leg, and then hand you a crutch and say, 'See! If it wasn't for me, you couldn't walk!'"
Some of you actually might be inclined to thank me, wouldn't you?
If I wanted to hurt you, I'd convince you that my behavior is perfectly normal, and if you don't like it, then there's something wrong with you. I'd tell you that you're abusive when you're not, that you're rude or arrogant when you're not, that you've upset me when you haven't, and that I'm a "victim" of your foolishness. I'd also act like a total sweetheart in public -- to add to your confusion, and to trick bystanders into supporting me in pressuring you and hurting you further, so you'd keep coming back for more.
I would keep the pressure on. I'd lie to you and claim, "He hates you," "She doesn't like you," "They think you're stupid," and would deceive you with falsehoods such as, "Everyone will hate you if you don't do what I say!"
Yes, I would sadistically do all of this and more -- if...I wanted to hurt you.
So, why? Why would "I" want to hurt you? (Note: this "I" is not me, personally, but the fictional villain portrayed in this article.) "I" would want to hurt you in order to divert everyone's attention away from my own personal problems, past trauma, and prior abuse from others. I'd want to inflict pain on you, since I get jealous easily -- because my emotional maturity (which we also could call emotional IQ, or EQ) stopped progressing at a young age when some really bad things happened to me. (Note: In my opinion, this "stunted EQ" phenomenon does not afflict everyone who has traumatic childhood experiences. But for those for whom it does, many probably tend to abuse others.)
Continuing on, "I" often have flashbacks about these horrible past incidents, and want other people to suffer as I do every time I think about those events, so they can know how bad it feels. These terrible memories make me feel guilty, stupid, embarrassed, mad, sad, scared, confused, and helplessly controlled, and I want others to share my misery!
So, if I wanted to hurt you, I'd look for ammunition -- any ammunition -- to make you suffer. A mispronounced word from your mouth, a small mistake you made, a slightly-different personal appearance, lifestyle or habit that you have, a different set of skills or background of yours, or anything else that I could exaggerate and twist in a negative way, I would use as cannon fodder to spread my agony. I'd also change the conversation topic at random to one I could use as a passionate weapon.
But my favorite set of bitter bullets revolves around criticism, personal disagreements, and differing beliefs. That's the best stuff.
Because my emotional IQ has been stuck at the level of a child, it's really hard for me to tell apart genuine criticism from verbal abuse. It's all the same to me: the same kind of trauma I've had flashbacks about since my early days. Do you disagree with me...about anything? Do you really think Pluto should be called a planet when I don't? Well, buddy, you're attacking me -- the way my abusers did when I was a kid! And I'm going to fight you to protect myself! (I think this is called PTSD.)
In fact, I'm often tempted to fight you just for having different views or tastes, since I'm worried that you might use them to attack me. And you're forgetting something else: I carry around a huge load of emotional baggage on my shoulders. It's so heavy, that I can't accept any more of it without blowing up at you -- that is, if I wanted to hurt you.
Of course, that's right -- if I wanted to hurt you.
If I wanted to hurt you, I'd intentionally knock down your pride whenever you'd accomplished something. I'd make up lies and say that your feat was easy, that "everyone's done that," that you were just lucky, or that only silly people would do something like that. I also would make you feel stupid for feeling proud of yourself by uttering, "Dude,...I can't believe you're celebrating over this. How lame."
If you object, I'd assure you that I'm just trying to help, and am "on your side," but you're simply "not good enough, yet." I'd keep doing this again and again until your melancholies matched mine, and until I'd scored so many points in my beloved game of "misery loves company" that I had more 1-Ups than Mario.
Yeah, I would viciously do all of this and much more -- if...I wanted to hurt you.
But, why? Why would I choose to do this to you? How did you become my target?
The answer is quite simple: you're a Happy Weirdo.
You're a Happy Weirdo who's different from me. You're a Happy Weirdo who's ecstatic about life. You're a Happy Weirdo who doesn't seem to suffer like I do, and I've noticed that. It makes me feel really lonely.
How dare you not share my guilt, fear, confusion, anger, and sadness that torture me every day! I hate you, and am going to make you suffer until you're as miserable as me!
I also can't stand the fact that you've developed your own unique personal tastes, styles, and beliefs. This repulses me, too, because my past abuse and mental anguish have rendered me incapable of doing the same. All I can really do is pretend to like what I think "everyone else" likes.
So, you possess your own tastes because you can, and I don't because I can't! You must be happier than me! I hate that, too, and am going to torment you spitefully until you can't have your own tastes anymore!
But there is one thing I do admire about you: your presence gives me a chance to score some huge points in my slick little "misery loves company" sport. So if I wanted to hurt you, I'd become your friend. Do I get a prize, now? This sure is fun, isn't it?
If I wanted to hurt you, I'd tell you that you "shouldn't be selfish." You'd be instructed to always put yourself last, to live your life for me, and never for yourself because "it's bad to be selfish." And once I'd brainwashed you into doing this, I could abuse and manipulate you at will with the greatest of ease -- like taking candy from a baby!
I'd convince you that your own needs are inferior, trivial, and "wrong," and that mine are superior, since I'm "doing what's best for you," and for "us." I'd deal with you -- not as you are, but as I wish you were. And any time you failed to meet my righteous expectations, you'd be scolded and shamed.
You'd often hear me scream the following rhetoric:
"I can't believe you'd choose to spend your evening alone reading or sleeping, or hanging out with other people and not me. What a selfish loser you are, putting your importance up over me, or "us"! The only way you're ever going to be happy, successful, and 'cool' is to follow my words and do as I say! I'm just trying to help you, you know. One of these days, you'll learn."
Of course, if you ever complained about me doing those same activities, I'd tell you that it's none of your business. I'd conjure up more lies and yap out, "Stop trying to control me like you always have! I've been trying my hardest to be a good friend, and you're treating me like crap for no reason. Stop being so selfish!"
And don't ever ask me to do any tasks for you, either, because I'd pretentiously say yes. I'd delay, and delay, to irritate you for as long as I could. And just when you're about to give up on me, I'd finally perform those chores. I'd do as sloppy of a job as possible to frustrate you further. And when you complained about it at the end, I'd berate you with venom for having asked me to complete it in the first place -- even if it was a simple errand. I'd let the big guilt roll....
In other words, I would intentionally hurt your feelings, confuse you, and manipulate you further into allowing more abuse -- that is, if I wanted to hurt you.
Yeah, yeah, Happy Weirdo,...if I wanted to hurt you.
If I wanted to hurt you, I'd tell you that you "shouldn't judge me," because "it's wrong to judge people." This would work great for damage control. I'd especially do this when you decided you'd had enough of me, and tried to end our friendship.
The sucking-up phase would then begin. I'd apologize to you for everything, and beg you to forgive me. I'd treat you as nicely as ever -- for a while. I'd assure you that this time was the "special" time: the time in my life when I had "finally" seen the light, the time that I had changed for good, and the pivotal point when I would stop being a jerk, forever. I'd make you forget all about my broken promises, lies and insults, and about all those times I made you feel embarrassed, angry, stupid, and controlled. I'd keep you hanging on long enough to reel you back in and soften you up -- all for the next round of mistreatment.
Deep down inside, I'd be thinking, "Hey friend, come closer so I can slap you again!"
At the climax of the next stage of cruelty, when you'd try leaving once more, I'd then blurt out these brilliant lines:
"Who are you to judge? Why can't you just trust me? Can't you forgive me? Stop being so judgemental. After all the nice things I've done for you, is this the thanks I get? If you don't talk to me anymore, I'm going to tell everyone how much of a selfish, arrogant jerk you are! Everyone will hate you. Oh, and I was going to apologize to you, but...now I'm not!"
I'd use every manipulative line in the book of fear and guilt to keep you in my clutches for as long as I could -- complete with more rounds of apologies and butt-kissing, followed by more harm -- until your days were as dark as mine. I would maliciously do all of this and so much more -- if I wanted to hurt you -- again, and again, and again.
But, wait, Happy Weirdo; I'm not finished with you! You're not out of the woods, yet. How about several months, years, or decades later -- long after our toxic friendship had finally ended?
If I wanted to hurt you, I would exploit your false hope that I had changed for the better.
I'd be really nice and friendly to you at first, of course, in order to sucker you back in to a bad relationship. Only this time, I'll have had many more years of experience to sharpen my clever manipulation skills, along with my shrewd forms of stealthy abuse, all as my mental health continued to decline. You'd make a great antique target for me for a little while -- long enough for me to put icing on my cake in my neverending charade game of "misery loves company."
Boo-yah! How 'bout that? Pretty cool, huh?
Well, ladies and gentlemen, it's time to move on to the next segment of this article. I'd like to take off my villain's acting mask, now, and speak from my own heart and mind. It feels decent to actually be myself again.
Wow,...I'm sure we've all met a few crazy jerks like that, haven't we! There's always a few jackasses who seem to stick out in our minds sometimes.
It's also important to expose their plethora of underhanded tactics, so we can recognize them and identify patterns. Then, we can learn to deal with them.
So then,...what if I wanted to help you?
Yep, that's right: what if I genuinely wanted to help you?
If I wanted to help you, I'd strongly encourage you first to make a list of your personal Top 10 Values in Life, to put them in order, and to follow them. Your physical and mental health, your integrity, and your sense of inspiration all should be placed in the Top 3 slots. They absolutely should be placed above any personal friendships or relationships -- even family.
If any of your relationships pose a threat to those Top 3 values, and if you've tried to fix these bad relationships but can't, then they simply don't belong in your life.
This totem-pole list of your personal values is like a compass and road map for your life. It is absolutely essential in making decisions and dealing with people. Without it, you'll be lost, because if you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything -- especially for abusive jerks like the one I just portrayed.
To slightly modify a line from ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu's classic book Tao Te Ching,
"Center your [life] in the Tao, and evil will have no power. Not that it isn't there, but you'll be able to step out of its way."
So definitely,...sit down now, make your own values list, follow it, and see what happens to your life!
That's the first bit of wisdom I'd give if I wanted to help you.
Next, if I wanted to help you, I'd advise you to shake off empty, meaningless clichés such as, "You shouldn't be selfish," and "You shouldn't judge others."
Why? Because if you truly believe those two sayings, then you'll tend to ignore important thoughts, feelings, and needs, and will be more prone to manipulation and abuse.
In my strong opinion, there are "wise" and "stupid" forms of selfishness.
If you choose to clarify your values and consider the consequences of your actions (in the short-term and long-term) firstly, and then you do what you believe is best for yourself after considering all that, this is wise selfishness. This is honorable -- if it's peaceful and honest, of course. It's also vital to enjoying a happy life.
Stupid selfishness, on the other hand, is acting in what you believe is your best self-interest without first thinking about your values or action results. This often leads to personal ruin, and also can land you in jail. Steer clear of this route.
As for the second cliché, there are also "wise" and "stupid" ways to personally judge others.
The stupid routine is quite obvious: basing your judgement upon someone's race, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, wealth class, creed, and to a lesser extent, personal appearance.
The wise method, however, is to judge people based on their behavior patterns (and also personal appearance and background, to a lesser extent). This is very crucial to your survival in this world. If you refuse to judge others, you'll find yourself with the wrong people -- at best, and could wind up dead, at worst.
All in all, if you're wisely selfish and judgemental, your assumptions may not always be correct. But nonetheless, this is infinitely preferable to switching off your mind and falling prey to manipulation, abuse, or an early death.
If people say, "You shouldn't be selfish," then perhaps they mean, "You shouldn't be happy in your own way."
If they ask, "Who are you to judge," then you can reply with, "Who am I to think, and who am I to live?"
Do you really want to spend much of your time with those who refuse to understand and appreciate you?
I'd certainly persuade you to ponder that -- if I wanted to help you.
If I wanted to help you, I'd encourage you to live your life as a trader -- exchanging value for value with others. This "value" can involve a good time, good friendships, good family relationships, love, romance, good employment / business relationships, money, goods & services, and so on.
Basically, you shouldn't try to sacrifice your happiness for others, nor expect others to try to sacrifice themselves for you. Instead, take the 3rd option: look for mutually-beneficial exchanges with others, where both (or all) of you feel that you're profiting in some way, where each of your unique needs are well-met. Finding compatible companions is an important initial step in achieving this.
To do otherwise is to open the floodgates to bad relationships, false hopes, crushing heartbreaks, bitterness, and hatred. And personally, I am so happy to say that for many, many years now, I have had no bad relationships in my life!
Consequently, if I wanted to help you, I'd advise you to seek neither forgiveness nor revenge, since a plethora of alternatives exist besides those two options. The best alternative is to seek the preservation of your physical and mental health, your integrity, and sense of inspiration. Use your good judgement, and act upon it. Leaving yourself open to further mistreatment by keeping the wrong people close is the worst path.
So, I'd definitely urge you to begin with those bits of insight.
Now, what if I wanted to love you?
Yes,...love you (as a friend, etc.)?
If I wanted to love you, it's because, in the words of my favorite author, Harry Browne, "There's something special about you that gives me happiness."
It's because you bring something meaningful to my life. It's because you and I both share some traits in common. And it's because I value the things I receive from our friendship, such as a fun time, good conversation, shared feelings, new ideas, new music, etc. In fact, I value these things more than what I'm giving up to make it all possible, such as time, energy, money, and other activities.
This relationship with you is profitable for me, because when I spend time with you, or do things for you, I wouldn't rather be doing anything else.
If I wanted to love you, I would limit our friendship to the characteristics we have in common, and leave the other matters alone (and/or arrange the relationship so our differences are the least bothersome to one another). The more traits you and I have in common, the closer our friendship can be.
I would respect your unique personal nature and needs, and would deal with you as you are, and not as how I wish you were. There's an old saying, "You can't make a stone catch fire, but you can use it to build something."
This is the wisdom I'd follow in how I'd treat you. I'd never expect you to "change" your nature or your needs. You are who you are, and could make a good companion in a relationship with me...if I wanted to love you.
If I wanted to love you, I'd want you to live your life for you, because no one else can know how to do that for you -- not even me. No one can know you and understand your needs as well as you can.
I would treat you the way you would like to be treated, but in a way that also meets my own needs as well. I'd hope that you could do the same with me vice-versa.
You'd be free to be who you are, to live for you, to think for yourself, and to share in a healthy friendship with me in a way that's profitable for each of us.
Yes, you and I absolutely could enjoy all of that and so much more -- if I sincerely wanted to love you.
Well, ladies and gentlemen, we're nearing the end of this article. I'd like for you to step back for a moment, and compare the philosophical insight in these last two sections with the hypocritical, mean-spirited, narcissistic, childish prattle in the main segment. There's quite a difference, isn't there?
Hopefully, you can distinguish decent friends from pretentious jerks a little better now, and can make smarter choices. Possibly, you can be more prudent at bringing in and keeping the right companions in your life, and kicking the rotten ones to the curb where they belong.
Let me re-emphasize this point. Below are some excerpts from the original John Galt's Speech from Ayn Rand's novel Atlas Shrugged. They're taken from the final 9 1/2 minutes:
"Now that you know the truth about your world, stop supporting your own destroyers. The evil of the world is made possible by nothing but the sanction you give it. Withdraw your sanction. Withdraw your support.
"My brothers in spirit, check on your virtues and on the nature of the enemies you're serving. Your destroyers hold you by means of your endurance, your generosity, your innocence, your love: the endurance that carries their burdens; the generosity that responds to their cries of despair; the innocence that is unable to conceive of their evil and gives them the benefit of every doubt, refusing to condemn them without understanding and incapable of understanding such motives as theirs.
"Leave them to the death they worship. In the name of your magnificent devotion to this earth, leave them. Don't exhaust the greatness of your soul on achieving the triumph of the evil of theirs. Do you hear me,...my love?
"In the name of the best within you, do not sacrifice this world to those who are its worst....Do not lose your knowledge that man's proper estate is an upright posture, an intransigent mind, and a step that travels unlimited roads. Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark....
"Check your road and the nature of your battle. The world you desired can be won; it exists; it is real; it is possible; it's yours.
"But to win it requires your total dedication, and a total break with the world of your past...."
With this inspiring passage, some of you might be curious as to how, specifically, you can go about distancing yourself from toxic people, or removing them from your life altogether.
Unfortunately, that's mostly beyond the scope of this article, as I don't have all the answers for every situation. The best general recommendation would be to talk to those you trust, to use your best judgement, and to act upon it.
I do have one little tactic you can try, though! Depending on the circumstances (if these aren't too dangerous or costly to you), you could transform yourself from a punching bag into a porcupine by blatantly reminding this person of why he or she is being such a jackass! You could stand up to this sourpuss by striking at the root.
Here's a little "comeback routine" to say to bullies when they're rude to you:
"Oh? Am I supposed to feel embarrassed [or guilty, or scared], or something? Every time you think about this person in your past who was a jerk to you, do you feel embarrassed? Do you want me to feel embarrassed, too, so you won't be so lonely in your suffering? Misery loves company, doesn't it? Hey, look,...don't be a jerk to me, and I won't remind you of why you're doing it! Go pick on someone else who doesn't know any better."
Oh well,...it's worth a try, at least, to drive them away from you.
Now, to conclude.
With all things considered, in your life and in this world, you were meant to be unique, but not lonely; self-interested, but not self-centered; and were made to be an interdependent trader in a network of relationships, not a completely independent island in a vacuum. Your mission is to fly away and find your place in that network -- whether it's in the next room, across town, or on the other side of the world. It's true, whether you simply must learn new names and streets, or a whole new language.
It's all about choices, my friend. Can you accept the challenge?
It's a new day...with new wisdom. Go get 'em, tiger.
Joe Goodson is happily building his life in the lovely city of Chongqing, China, and is currently studying the Chinese language full-time at Chongqing University. In his spare time, he enjoys dance-pop music, walking, hanging with friends, gold bullion investing, and natural health.