Why I’m Grateful to the Jerks in My Life

Written by on September 19, 2016 in Self-Awareness



September 21st is World Gratitude Day and as thankful as I am for friends, family, good health, my new home, red wine, peanut butter cookies and (especially) my dog Lucy, today I’d like to take a moment to express gratitude to an often overlooked and undervalued group – the jerks in my life.

We all have them. Most pass through our lives leaving only memories and a few bruises behind, while others linger on, possibly to teach us the virtues of creating healthy boundaries, but that’s another story.

Manipulative, arrogant, annoying, clinging and hurtful as they can be at times, these people also have a way of gifting us with some of our most valuable lessons.

I am grateful to the jerks my life for they have shown me exactly who I do not want to be. Click To Tweet

Many of the lessons are pretty basic. If it sounds too good to be true it probably is, don’t let people walk all over you, have some self-respect and chances are you’ll be okay.

The more advanced lessons include a personal favorite of mine; I am not responsible for another person’s attitude, perceptions or behavior, I am only responsible for my own.

The challenge with these lessons is that we rarely become fully aware of them until later, sometimes years later.

So in honor of World Gratitude Day I’d like to take this opportunity to express my thanks for a few of the lessons I’ve learned from the difficult people that have touched my life through the years.

To the Jerks I’ve Known

To the critics and naysayers, for teaching me that I don’t need the approval of others to pursue my dreams, thank you.

To the relative, who couldn’t tell the truth if her life depended on it, for teaching me that you can love someone and still not allow their dysfunctional behavior to disrupt your life, thank you.

To the hapless souls, who suffered one misfortune after another, for teaching me that you can’t help a person unless they want to help themselves, thank you.

To the teacher, who rode the fine line of jerkdom, for ruthlessly pushing me to become better because he saw more potential in me than I saw in myself, thank you.

To the former colleague who taught me to treat someone with kindness and respect because that’s who I am, not because I expect that they will be kind and respectful to me in return, thank you.

To the worst boss I’ve ever known, for inspiring me to trust my own instincts, quit a job I hated, and begin writing full-time, thank you.

To the ex-husband, who pushed my buttons so many times and in so many ways, I finally discovered I have limits, thank you.

To the neighbor, who I mistook for a jerk, for teaching me the importance of giving people the benefit of the doubt, because sometimes what we take as jerk-like behavior comes from personal pain and has nothing to do with us at all, thank you.

To the mean jerks, who taught me a lesson in humility each time my response to their behavior caused me to lose control of my emotions, thank you.

And last but not least,

To my dear friend, who gently opened my eyes to the fact that some days, I am the jerk in someone else’s life, thank you.

I’m thankful for every break in my heart, I’m grateful for every scar, some pages turned, some bridges burned, but there were lessons learned. ~Nisban Panwar

When you really think about it, the most important lesson we can learn from the jerks in our life may be that our problem isn’t with them at all, but how we respond to their behavior.

If we can accept that not everyone will have our values, then we can learn to get past the need to judge, condemn or change the difficult people in our life and free ourselves to look for the lessons they offer.

Of course, sometimes that lesson is hidden … DEEPLY hidden. But when you uncover it, well my friend, then you’ve found a real treasure!

What’s your story? Can you think of any important life lessons you’ve learned from difficult people in your life? If so, please consider sharing in a comment below.

Related articles:
Let today be the day you give up who you’ve been for who you can become.
About Marquita Herald

Marquita Herald

Marquita is an author, resilience coach and the chief evangelist at Emotionally Resilient Living. She’s also an unapologetic workaholic who loves red wine, rock n’ roll, road trips (and car dancing!), peanut butter cookies and (especially) a dog named Lucy.

She’s saddened and frustrated by excuses and cruelty and believes authentic compassion is the most powerful force in the world.

To learn more about Marquita and the mission of Emotionally Resilient Living  click here.

Thank you for sharing!

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  1. ikechi

    Hi Marquita

    This is indeed interesting. There are people in our lives that have done so much to make us better people. I love your thoughts on gratitude and whether we like or not, jerks do help in making us better.

    Thumbs up for this post. Take Care
    ikechi recently posted…4 Crazy Things You don’t Know When You Waste Your LifeMy Profile

  2. Sushmita

    Marquita this is such a thoughtful post. I instantly connected with you for the same. It makes me feel great when I meet people who share my views or thoughts. Thanks for sharing dear, it makes me feel good for who I am also I agree we must have the reality check that we too are the jerk in someone else’s life.
    Sushmita recently posted…Marketing tools for small business, to make your life easier!My Profile

    • I’m so pleased you found value in the article Sushmita, and I certainly understand what you mean by the value of connecting with like-minded people. It’s one of the things I love about working online because we are not restricted by geography! Thanks for sharing and contributing to the conversation. 🙂

  3. Lydia Brown

    Marquita you sure hit the nail on the head. I do observe behavior and identify what I don’t want to be like. I learned years ago to be grateful those people that annoy me because they have taught me patience. I had to learn to be patient or I would have made myself sick. Thanks for sharing.
    Lydia Brown recently posted…What Leads People to Drug Addiction and Alcoholism?My Profile

    • Yeah, the patience thing is an important lesson to learn. What I’ve found to be tricky is that sometimes you can take patience to an extreme and it becomes harmful. Boundaries, it’s all about creating healthy boundaries. Thanks for stopping by Lydia!

  4. William Rusho

    It seems that sometimes the jerks outnumber the good people you have in your life. Makes you appreciate the good ones even more. If I was giving thanks to the jerks, I might never be done thanking them.
    William Rusho recently posted…Saratoga Springs International Film Festival: A SuccessMy Profile

  5. Sue Bride

    I’ve learned many lessons from jerks who were in my life. One of the main ones is not to let people take advantage of you and learning to say no if they try to. I let a couple of people drain me of energy, take up so much of my time, which left me stressed and exhausted.

    The lying relative isn’t so easy to cope with when she moves in with you. But what can you do if they have nowhere else to go, even after telling myself that last time would be the last time? Just hoping it’s only short term:-)
    Sue Bride recently posted…Free ebook – The Whys & Hows of Business Success with InstagramMy Profile

    • Ouch! Yeah, having a dysfunctional person move in with you really does create a challenge, but I suppose it also provides an opportunity for tremendous growth. Ha! Yes, I know that’s easy for me to say. 🙂 Good luck with that, I hope you get your wish and it will be short term.

  6. Tuhin

    Hey Marquita, I always look forward to read your articles as these gives me something to think about…and this is not an exception either.
    Every single person comes to teach us something in life. And after years of learning we gain some experience. I too have a long list of such ‘teachers’ in my life.

    • Thank you for your kind words, and for letting me know you enjoyed the post Thuin. Couldn’t agree more with you about the lessons we can learn from virtually everyone in our lives if only we’re willing to be aware and open. 🙂

  7. Ravi Chahar

    Hey Marquita,

    I love the post and the jerks you have shared about your relatives, the teacher, I like that.

    Life is complicated and we learn from the jerks we get from it. We need to find the right spot to make our life happy.

    There are many chances we get to modify our ideas from the jerks.
    Glad to read the article.
    Ravi Chahar recently posted…How To Increase phpMyAdmin Import File Size Limit In Xampp?My Profile

  8. Lea Bullen

    You make a great point Marquita. There is always a silver lining and something to be learned, even it what seems to be the worst circumstances.
    Sometimes that negative energy can push us to do something incredibly positive.
    Great reminder 🙂

  9. Erica says:

    Yes, we should show gratitude to the jerks. They definitely do challenge us. The worst thing you can do is take it personally and allow a jerk to limit your life. I definitely did that in my younger years. I’m trying to have compassion for the jerks in my life. My husband is friends with a guy who was a jerk to me years ago. When my husband and I got back together and started dating, he told his jerk friend about it. The first words out of Mr. Jerk’s mouth were “Will you tell her how sorry I am? The way I treated her has haunted me for years.” It made me feel better to just know he knew he’d been a jerk. And made me realize that, of course, it is never really about you when someone randomly acts jerk-like.
    Erica recently posted…6 Amazing Reasons to Eat Garlic DailyMy Profile

    • Great story Erica, thank you so much for sharing! I have to tell you that I’m also impressed that your husband called his friend on his behavior – definitely a keeper! 🙂

  10. Sonia

    Hi Marquita!

    I thoroughly enjoyed this post as well as all of the comments.
    I have always believed that we meet the people in our lives for a reason. That includes all of the ‘jerks’ and you have proven that with your wonderful gratitude to them all 🙂
    Over the years, I have put up with a lot of ‘jerks’ and continued to let them dominate my movements through life. But for the past few years, I think I have pretty much got them at arms length.
    Thanking them all is a fantastic way to move them on!
    Thank you 🙂

    • Good for you Sonia! It does take time, but that’s what the process of building healthy boundaries is all about. Thanks so much for contributing to the conversation! 🙂

  11. Paula

    Interesting. Not sure how to comment. Got writers block on this,one.
    But yes we can learn from others,who hurt us amd we do need to keep our boundaries safe.

    • Huh, I have to agree with most professional writers, no such thing as writer’s block Paula. Sometimes people simply aren’t interested enough to form an opinion. Thanks for stopping by though. 🙂

  12. Emi says:

    Hi Marquita,
    Love your article! I have a lot of those to be grateful for too. You are so right all of them are the greatest lessons we can have…painful but they are peace of who we are today. I am grateful but happy that they all are in the past.
    Have a beautiful day!

  13. Donna Merrill

    Hi Marquita,

    I have had some great life lessons from the jerks in my lifetime. I love the way you listed yours…I could resonate with that quite well.

    I believe the biggest jerk was the woman who I constantly tried to help, but she didn’t change over the years. I had to put an end to the kind of relationship we shared. She choses to be miserable. So I just let go.

    Donna Merrill recently posted…Why Create An eBook | Advice From Ryan BiddulphMy Profile

    • Yep, I’ve known a few of those as well Donna. I think one of the hardest lessons an Entrepreneur has to learn is that sometimes you have to fire a client. Thanks for sharing!

  14. Chery Schmidt

    Hello Marty, WOWSY Girlfriend! this title of yours here is AWESOME! Oh Yeh I to have met some jerks in my day! the last one actually taught me a few things HEHE But in the end he was still a jerk.

    Great Share.
    Chery :))

  15. lenie

    Marquita, only you can show how to be thankful for jerks. Love it. I especially like the quote “I am thankful for the jerks in my life for they have shown me exactly who I do not want to be”
    If we could take that lesson from every jerk we’ve met then wouldn’t we be nice, non-judgmental people? Unfortunately, so often we recognize the jerkiness but don’t always apply it to our own behaviour.
    I am thankful that you saw the funny side of jerks – next time I meet one I will look at him/her and try to apply your viewpoint to the jerk – could be fun.

    • Well you know there is that old trick speakers use to lighten the nerves Lenie – imagining the audience naked. I tend to display my emotions across my face like one of those electronic ticker tapes on the news so I’m afraid it might end up being too distracting. Anyway, I am so glad you enjoyed the article and it’s great to see you back again! 🙂

  16. Lesly Federici

    Oh, this post made me laugh Marquita… I have laid the jerks to rest. Although there are a few lurking around that I try to ignore. But you raise a good point because it’s those jerks, the ones you cried over, the ones you tried to impress that taught you, me the greatest lessons. Where would we be without them?
    Lesly Federici recently posted…How Complicated Doodles Can Lead To ClarityMy Profile

  17. Jeri

    Awesome post! I actually wish I had more jerks in my life, but because of the biggest jerk who is now no longer in my life, I need to go out and avail myself to more jerks so I can grow more by interacting with them 😉
    Jeri recently posted…#AuthorInterview: Tinthia ClemantMy Profile

  18. Hear, hear to the jerks! They are, sometimes, the push we need to get us moving in our right directions. I, too, had a boss whom I couldn’t stand and yet stood for entirely too long. When I finally made the decision to leave his jerkdom, multiple great things happened in my life.
    Yahoo, you jerk.
    And sadly, sometimes I have been the jerk, as the post: Being the Stupid Friend admitted to. Lucky for me that she still loves me.
    RoseMary Griffith recently posted…Don’t go to Cazenovia, New York Unless…My Profile

  19. Sabrina Quairoli

    What a great post! I have had my fair share of jerk teachers especially when I was in middle school. Though I thank him/her for forcing me to stand up for myself and completing college when he/she said I wouldn’t be able to do it.

    Also, I am thankful to you Marquita, for inspiring me to look at myself more closely and let things go. =) I hope you have a great day.
    Sabrina Quairoli recently posted…How To Organize a Functional Home WorkspaceMy Profile

    • Oh Sabrina, those jerks who try to tell us what we can’t do are my favorite! I don’t normally consider myself to be an especially competitive person, but there is nothing that motivates me to get in gear faster than someone trying to build their ego at my expense. Thanks for sharing, and especially for your kind words. 🙂

  20. Mark

    Thanks for sharing some incredibly valuable insights and perspective M!

    And very entertaining too!I might add!LOL! It just goes to so, true long lasting and some extremely valuable insights, can be gained, from practically every aspect of our lives.

    But only if, as you so wisely pointed out, we ourselves are receptive to the potential learning opportunities.

    I really enjoyed how you’ve categorized things and pointed out each potential lesson and why and how the experience was and is so incredibly valuable!

    Just another terrific post, from an extremely talented and insightful individual!With a fabulous sense of humor to boot!LOL!
    Mark recently posted…Affiliate Marketing: Five Things Serious Newbie Marketers Definitely Needs To Know!My Profile

    • Glad you enjoyed it Mark – little bit different this week, huh? To be honest it was inspired by a recent run-in with another kind of jerk so rather than let it get to me I decided to have some fun with it. 🙂

  21. Ken Dowell

    I impressive array of all types of jerks. And a nice reminder that there a little bit of jerk in all of us.
    Ken Dowell recently posted…Some Smart Things Some Cities Are DoingMy Profile

  22. Phoenicia

    I could write about this subject for hours – I really could. You always manage to touch on issues that are real and affect the everyday man.

    Sometimes people are in our lives because we allow them to be. Whether it be because we do not have enough strength/confidence/self-love to accept they are not right for us. We have the choice, we can set boundaries, we have the right to protect ourselves.

    I absolutely love your take on thank you’s and resonate with at least four of them.
    Thank you for this.
    Phoenicia recently posted…Paperwork: how do you deal with yours?My Profile

  23. Dave

    I have certainly encountered my share of “less-than-desirable” people to be around in my life. And, if I am being completely honest, I don’t always handle my interaction with them quite well. It’s not that I lash out at them or berate them. In fact, I tend to the complete opposite. I run away from it.

    That changed when someone very close to me was unjustly assaulted in an emotional manner. And, even though I was not the one that needed to carry the burden of that malicious action, it opened my eyes to a very important life lesson that I hope to carry forward and spread to those lives I am fortunate enough to touch.

    Yes, you have the choice to allow someone into your life or not. And yes, you always have the ability to change your mind at any point in time based upon a variety of factors. But, when you “love” someone (and I don’t necessarily only mean a romantic type of love), the only true and authentic way to do just that, love, is to do it unconditionally.

    If we all could find a way to embrace this definition of unconditional love, the world would become a much kinder and understanding place to be.
    Dave recently posted…The Greener GrassMy Profile

    • Thank you so much for sharing and providing your thoughtful insights Dave. This is a topic I would love to debate with you over a cup of coffee in your cafe. 🙂 I believe the concept of “unconditional” love is wonderful as an ideal, however, it must be tempered with self-preservation. To be fair, what’s missing here is how you define “unconditional” love and I’ve known you long enough to know that you are a romantic at heart my friend.

      So let me play devil’s advocate for a moment and ask you, does love under your definition include “self” or is this a luxury only afforded to others? Does it mean that if a woman loves an abuser she must prove that love is unconditional by remaining with him despite the danger? Does it mean when someone you love betrays or demeans you in some way, or is on a path of self-destruction, you must go along for the ride or you don’t really love them?

      It is said that self-care is not an indulgence but an act of survival, and I think there is a line that each of us must determine in our own minds that when crossed moves us firmly into the role of victim, and this is already a line many women struggle to define. I’ve lost count of the women I’ve known who never made time to take care of themselves because in their minds love meant putting everyone else first, only to end up ill or in mid-life trying to figure out how they ended up in the miserable life they are in.

      This level of self-sacrifice may be a kind and understanding place for the person on the receiving end, but it most assuredly is not for the person saddled with the role of caretaker.

      • Dave

        I think that you bring up a very salient consideration that I have failed to address in my initial comment. Unconditional love, in my eyes, applies to love of self as much, if not more, than love for others. And, I believe that the former precedes the latter.

        I would never suggest that an individual – male or female – remain in a relationship of any kind that does not align with their love of self. And therein, I believe, lies the reasoning behind my initial response. We should strive to love unconditionally those people that we have “chosen” to be in our lives.

        At any point that love of self is compromised beyond a threshold of our choosing, we have the power, authority, and some would say obligation, to remove ourselves from that relationship – whether it’s professional, romantic, familial, or any other variety.

        Everything, to me, lies inside the power of choice. Yes, unconditional love is wonderful ideal. And I would agree that attaining an ideal of blindly loving every person on earth unconditionally, is unrealistic. But, for those people that we choose to include in our lives (a choice that can always change), working to treat and love that person with no strings attached is the only way to treat another human being.

        But, then again, that is only my humble opinion. And everyone is certainly entitled to a different one based upon their unique perspective and experiences.
        Dave recently posted…The Greener GrassMy Profile

          • Ramona McKean

            So many brilliant comments in this exchange between the two of you. With my struggling for far too long now with a grown child of mine, here are the comments that have especially resonated with me:

            “’Unconditional’ love … wonderful as an ideal…must be tempered with self-preservation.” (Painfully true.)

            “Does it mean that if a woman loves an abuser she must prove that love is unconditional by remaining with him despite the danger? Does it mean when someone you love betrays or demeans you in some way, or is on a path of self-destruction, you must go along for the ride or you don’t really love them?”

            “I think there is a line that each of us must determine in our own minds that when crossed moves us firmly into the role of victim, and this is already a line many women struggle to define.” Oh, I’ve been struggling with this one. With a child, I believe, it’s harder than with ex or with anyone else. My maternal instinct that wants to protect and nurture, especially in dire circumstances, has blinded me and cost me my precious health. Too much already. I’ve heard about children divorcing a parent. Well, it goes both ways.

            Thanks for such a thoughtful post, Marquita.

          • Hopefully, it also came across that we are friends because I have nothing but the highest regard for Dave. 🙂 I love it when someone has the courage to speak their mind! I am so glad you found value and inspiration in the article Ramona. I don’t have kids of my own but there is no doubt in my mind that you are right about it being more difficult to deal with these struggles when it comes to your children. Thank you for sharing, and I sincerely hope you’re able to find your way to some quality self-care – sounds like you need it. 🙂

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