The Brutality of Words, thoughts on respect included

Words matter. I know this more than pretty much anyone. Probably my ugliest side is the aspect of James who, in a rush of hurt or anger or disrespect or flood of any negative energy, brandishes words like a weapon.

I’ve worked on it and really struggled, but in spite of all improvement, I still find myself at points where I use the power of words in unholy ways. I cleave, gore, batter, bludgeon, incense, and mutilate with words. I panic. I freak out. I seek out the nearest people in the moment and I do these awful things.

Most of my best friends likely wear sick scars from when they’ve been caught in the blender. It’s a deep regret I have to carry every day. The thing about the things I… we say is that they live with us for our entire lives. I know this because when I lash out, it’s the dark power I’m seeking to wield. At the end of it all, being sorry is never enough because I can’t simply erase the things I said in a moment of frailty.

At this point, I feel hardly apologetic when my ugliness comes out because it feels so inadequate. As I told a recent victim of my inner monster: if someone said those things to me, I wouldn’t want anything to do with them, too.

I personally don’t fret over it a whole lot. I used to spend entire days suffocating in my own anxiety as if the walls were painted in blood spelling out, “what have I done?!”

I guess I just have to accept my flaws, slowly improving upon my own scars on time just as I am at the mercy of the grace of those around me. Very very rarely, the damage murders a friendship, in a couple of cases, the repeated scarring has left a friendship a crippled, almost lifeless shell (thinking of a very specific one here), but most of the time, it’s just left me in a position where I swallow the bitter pill of my own flaws along with the healing medicine of others’ grace.

Thanks to all those who, for some crazy reason, keep coming back. And deeper thanks for those who understand where I am coming from amid the turbulent vortex violent debris that forms in the center of times I am hurt.

Rodney Dangerfield and Aretha Franklin

With that out of the way, I’d also like to touch on respect a bit and why it’s such a huge deal for me.

I don’t think a lot of people who know me realize just how prominent it is to my psychological plumbing.

The first problem is that I believe a lot of beefs we have with people and even from a macroscopic populace level would merely vanished if we actually respected people. Just a baseline level of respect.

Respect is a lot like an instinctual, primitive ancestor to love. You don’t have to care fondly about someone to respect them. You don’t have to suck up to them and tell them they’re great. You don’t even really have to be that nice. But when you respect someone, you just give them their due.

I’ve got some deep rooted problems, personally, because I’ve rarely felt respected. The difference between my electron-close friends and everyone else is that I’ve always felt deeply respected by them.

Part of it is one of those baggage-James-has-carried-since-childhood things that I never realized needed to be worked out until much later in life, and another part of it is the side effect of a large set of social patterns that get established.

For example, one of these is what I call The Court Jester Pattern.

The Court Jester Pattern and His Ilk

One of the downsides of being good at being self-deprecating is that boundaries never get established.

It’s a good shtick.

If you’re good at making fun of yourself, you can almost always easily amuse others. If you’re better than just good, they’ll feel comfortable joining in and poking, too.

That’s fine, I love making fun of myself, for the most part. It’s one of the few ways I can easily connect with people on a surface level. Problems start to arise when those less familiar get involved, though.

It’s funny because often times when I feel disrespected by people I expect to respect me — because they know me — it’s because they just never took a moment to step back and give me a nugget of respect in a public setting. It’s not so much a direct feeling of being dissed, as much as it is a failure to take the responsibility to set precedent.

This is often because of the Court Jester Pattern. Basically, in a group setting, I do the whole Court Jester look at this bumbling fool ha ha ha! thing. We have a good time, but specific instances arise where I actually want to make a point, or I want to at least mildly refute something that we joked about in regards to me. Because I am already acting as a sort of Circus Clown figure, naturally everyone keeps plodding along.

As soon as I try to stop the pattern, I get further invalidated. Not just that, but the fact that I want to make a serious point or take a second to stand up for myself earns me badges such as, “you need to quit being so paranoid,” and, “I don’t really understand what you’re talking about so who cares?” — among many others.

At this point in the Court Jester Pattern, I’m labeled the one who is suddenly taking things way too seriously. But sometimes a guy just wants to make an aside. Oftentimes in the torrent of joking we can extract clouds of knowledge.

At this point, the pattern locks in and cycles through. Because this is a social setting, I am usually among a person or two who knows me really well; someone who, one on one, shows me respect and is familiar with the complex dimensions that reside beyond my public persona. We can assume that most of the others really only know me at a surface level.

When Patterns Meltdown

Because the pattern is recursive, it builds on itself. The Court Jester gradually gets frustrated because he knows he is more than just a court jester and wants opportunities to leave that facade. The good friend thinks it is just a good time and everyone giving each other shit because that’s what we do, and because they know the Court Jester is also a bard, a scholar, a knight, and all these other things. The less familiar friend only establishes me as the Court Jester.

In its worst instance, this pattern leads to an eruption when I’ve been set up to be absolutely disrespected, usually by the lesser friend because there was never a precedent that I deserve any respect established. Rather, the precedent was that it’s ok– it’s cool to disrespect me, because that’s just what we all do. It turns from harmless to radioactive quickly.

Beyond that, I feel even more disrespected by the good friend who was part of whichever pack I ran with that night. They never actually directly disrespected me, and at the end of the night, if they do a mental inventory of me they hold me in high esteem, but because I am so disgusted that someone would so blatantly disrespect me, I immediately cycle back to all the times during the Court Jester Pattern that they never or very passively came to bat for my side. Especially given that they know that person well, and I don’t.

Specifically, this happened with a couple of girls most recently. In plain English, it’s not that I wanted to sleep with or try to date or anything like that with the disrespecting girl, but rather the freedom to feel like I’d had the freedom to try if I so felt the inclination. If your respect is shutout from the gate, you never feel that freedom. Instead, you feel trapped by an errant fate like an inmate in a wrongful conviction.

Give me my own chance to screw up if that’s what I want to do. I probably won’t take that chance anyway, but please don’t rob me or anyone of that. That’s messed up.

Instead, the perception of me gets battered down throughout the night and the door is opened for me to simply get discarded as if I were some action figure toy. Respect in a case like this would either be to actually set me up to look somewhat like I am, an accomplished, highly intellectual, physically gifted, creatively talented, and pensive person. Obviously, if these are the things I believe about myself, the honus is on me to show that I am such a person through interactions and time — but if all the seeds of doubt are planted, then the weeds that grow as a result suffocate any chance I have to properly represent myself to that girl, guy, potential friend, enemy, or whatever.

When Respect Bleeds Into Pride

At a certain point, a respect issue doubles as a pride issue. Once pride gets in the mix, it all becomes very hairy, because pride will mess anyone up. If you want to see what I’m talking about just look at Walter White from Season 1 all the way to the series finale. Almost inevitably, respect mutates into pride. Pride possesses us all and turns us into monsters.

I spent most of my life with little self-respect; an inaccurate twisted imp that was a never ending abortion to the virgin potential each of those years brought.

As I’ve gotten a little older, I’ve finally began to recognize that I’m not the shambling mutant, but probably what Kendirck Lamar dubbed the Butterfly. As a side effect of this newfound confidence and self-worth, I not only have to worry about developing it into an unwavering confidence, but warding off the wild demon lurking below; pride.

Here’s the thing, outside of free form social settings, I’m used to everyone around me respecting me. Those I’ve worked with have respected me because I have a sharp mind, work hard and at least try to be selfless. In sports, I’ve earned and maintained the respect of others athletically hundreds and hundreds of times. My longest, closest friends have always held me in this absurdly high regard that feels like a borderline reverence; I like to think is mutual.

The point is, in most cases I am used to be surrounded by people I know have a lot of regard for me. I’ve always felt that if I were the type who wanted to lead, I tend to earn enough universal respect that I could be a leader (of course, I’m too lazy and don’t like the spotlight, so I try to avoid being put in that kind of position).

The first flaw is that I am simply used to being surrounded by people I feel respect me. When I get out of that setting, it jars me. It messed with my head. If only these people knew who I was, if they could really see me, they’d know how wrong they are.

The second weakness is a total absence of structural integrity, because as soon as the first flaw brushes so lightly against me, it becomes a matter of pride.

That’s frankly how I end up feeling like most people don’t respect me. Not socially. Not when I haven’t been in a position where I can clearly earn it. And that’s how patterns such as the Court Jester emerge.

That’s how words become terrible weapons. True, I wish my friends would stick up for me some and give me more of a chance because we all know that I have loads of problems going on internally, but I also have trained myself to never count on it and adapted a back against the world positioning.

I guess it just is what it is. There’s part of me that thinks an older me is out there in another time who might say that this is all just youthful folly that you haven’t figured out yet, but I kind of hope not, because in everything I do I want to at least show people respect as much as I want to be respected.

In the meantime, I’ll continue to try and parry pride. Because as it was once wisely said, “Fuck Pride. Pride only hurts, never helps.