How to be a Decent Human

Under the Green Desk Lamp…

I’m not a great person.

Sometimes I’m not even good, exactly.

I’d like to think I’m alright.

At the very least, I certainly try to be decent.

It’s not such a complicated thing really. I read a quote from comedian Ricky Gervais recently. He was commenting on the idea that people felt like they couldn’t joke anymore, and how that really wasn’t the case. The full quote is below.

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The crux of this really comes down to how a person reacts to a contrary opinion. Yes, you can tell a joke, but if it ends up hurting someone else that hears it, the question becomes not ‘was the joke funny’, but rather, ‘do you give a shit’?

Caring about other people is, after all, one of the chief qualifiers of decency.

If you tell a joke (or any other sort of comment or action) that gets a negative reaction, you don’t have to defend the joke, or your values, or lament the days where we could say anything we wanted and expect others to choke back their pain in defense of your ‘humour’.

People might be hurt. They may be upset or offended. And you, despite the joke being yours—and assuming it was not meant to hurt—can hear that pain.

It may come as a surprise that you can even ask questions. Not to challenge or undermine their feelings, but to better understand their experience to the extent they are comfortable sharing it.

In the end, you may both be able to learn something, transforming a painful encounter into an opportunity for mutual growth.

It’s not always easy, and no one likes being called out or corrected. It can be uncomfortable, even confusing at times to realize that something you’ve said or done has been deemed inappropriate by another.

What do you say? What do you do?

Well, one simple trick is to start with an apology. You don’t have to fully understand the nuance of differing opinions—it can be enough to understand that another is hurting, and that you are sorry for that. People sometimes need their pain acknowledged, and your obstinate focus on the hilarity of your joke should never undermine that need.

After that, there may be room for discussion, learning and growth. It’s important to remember of course, that the learning just may include the fact that the joke simply wasn’t funny, and that you should not repeat it.

That can be enough.

It’s not that you can’t discuss things anymore—it’s just that the discussion needs to have two sides. You’re not being told not to be yourself—unless you’re an asshole—and certainly, you can still feel free to joke around. Just realize that sometimes, there will be people who will point out the flaws of that joke. From there, it’s up to you to improve the approach, content, or delivery… or risk proving that the real joke is you.

-Brad OH Inc.

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Dear Jeremy…

Under the Green Desk Lamp…

Green Desklamp

Dear Jeremy,

You’ve most likely heard of me. I’ve certainly heard of you. Since moving to this city, your name has followed me incessantly. I may hear it multiple times per week; other times it will be years apart. But without fail, your name will return to my mind, and I’ve come to accept I may owe you some level of apology.

You see, wherever I roam in this fair town of ours, I find myself periodically greeted by strangers who assume that I am, in fact, you. It was initially the source of much confusion, but after a few such instances, I came to accept that somewhere in this city I have a doppelganger—lucky bastard.

Yes, it would seem that after a lifetime of fairy tales and fantasy novels, it turns out I actually have my very own evil twin.

Except that it’s not that. Not quite. You see Jeremy, every time someone mistakes me for you; I inevitably hear nothing but high praise and endless compliments. People are thrilled to see me—or you, more accurately. I’ve been called a saint, a great friend, and a true philanthropist, all because I apparently look like you.

Actually, I suspect it’s you that looks like me, but that’s beside the point.

For some time, I was ok with this. I always assumed that one day I’d meet this double of mine, and had no doubt it could only end in mortal combat. But then the gears started turning, particularly on the ‘Evil Twin’ notion. The implications of the observation that everyone who knows you seems to adore you and think incredibly highly of your character were admittedly bothersome.

It wasn’t a difficult conclusion to draw; perhaps you weren’t the evil twin after all. Indeed, it’s more likely that title belongs to me.

And so I began to think. While strangers approached me on the street thanking me for the time you volunteered to help them with some overwhelming project, or provided a shoulder to lean on through a trying ordeal—what were you experiencing when people inevitably mistook you for me?

Once the question was asked, it could not be unasked, and I have since been burdened with a terrible guilt over the notion that my misdeeds may have been coming back on you.

I admit I’ve been a lousy twin, and I know it’s time to apologize. It’s hard to say exactly what the apology is for, as I don’t know precisely what you’ve experienced as a result of my indiscretions.

Undoubtedly, there have been more than a few slaps. But hey—women can be like that sometimes.

Presumably at least a few people have sought revenge for some perceived slight, but there can be no question those idiots deserved whatever perceived injustice they got. Mopey pricks.

I truly am sorry about the incident with the crazy carpet, and I cannot even begin to make account of the ordeal with the police horse. If you’ve suffered as a result of either, I honestly feel mildly perturbed.

If at some point you were confronted by a Minister who was offended by some action of mine—whether justified or not—I can see how it would be an inconvenience for your perfect character, although I can’t imagine it was that bad. The guy was a knob from the start, and you should honestly be happy he didn’t try to convert you. You owe me on that one buddy.

As a matter of fact Jeremy, I think your petulant whining is a bit uncalled for. If you’ve experienced hardship as a result of me, maybe you should turn that pathetic frown upside down, and realize that I’ve only served to make your sad time in this world a little more colourful.

Seriously Jeremy, you’re acting like a child, and I’m getting sick of it. I know you like to pluck scared kittens from trees and help old ladies across the street—but in doing so you’re fucking up the natural order of things. You’re also missing out on a lot of potential fun. So try to focus less on making me look so damn good—trust me, I’ve got it covered. Instead, why don’t you go unwind, have a bit of fun, and try to send some of that bad karma back my way? You might actually end up enjoying yourself a little, asshole.

-Brad OH Inc.