THE BLOG
11/14/2014 09:58 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

10 Lessons You Learn From the A**holes in Your Life

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The world is filled with a**holes. They are everywhere. They hit your parked car without leaving a note, cut you off while waiting in line at Whole Foods and literally knock you out of the way on their mad dash to the subway, so you face the closed doors instead of them.

A**holes aren't limited to random strangers and non-innocent bystanders. I'm also talking about the a**holes who cleverly disguise their insults as jokes. They do something just nice enough so you brush off their negative comment. Maybe he didn't really mean it. Maybe he isn't that bad of a person, or he had a bad day, or he --

No. He's just an a**hole, plain and simple.

Then, there is that other level of a**hole that belongs in Dante's ninth circle of hell. These are the ones who have no consideration for anything having to do with the feelings of others. They will do anything to manipulate their way out of a bad situation and into your heart, only to shatter it once it's in their grasp.

There is a silver lining to having these people in your life: You learn from them. You learn from them and your life improves and you get better.

These are the lessons you learn from the a**holes in your life.

1. You learn to stand up for yourself.
Quite frankly, you learn to not put up with anyone else's sh*t. You develop a thicker skin and your backbone straightens. Your voice is no longer lost in a conversation. When you want people to listen, they listen. That voice in your head, the one that pops in like Jiminy Cricket advising you to not do that scary thing you're about to do, becomes more affirmative. You discover another side of you that you wouldn't have thought possible until the world crashed down on you and then forced you to get up. Because, sadly, you needed a few jerks and the voice of experience to put things into perspective.
2. You learn to look out for those important to you.
Your friends. Your family. Your significant other. You learn to take to heart the feelings of those closest to you. When something bad happens to them, it's like something bad is happening to you, too. These are the people who mean the most to you, who have been there through the best times in your life as well as the worst. They've celebrated, laughed and cried with you, and their achievements are your achievements, too. So it only makes sense that someone who does them wrong has done wrong to you, too.
3. You learn how to give someone the benefit of the doubt.
On the other hand, sometimes people say something harsh or do cruel things and it has nothing to do with you. You were just there at the wrong place at the wrong time and they are saying these things or doing these things simply because they are hurting and they need to take it out on something or someone, a.k.a. you. I'm not saying everyone is doing this or that it's right, but it's just that sometimes, the judgment against these people needs to be taken with a grain of salt that maybe they are living with a pain that they are still trying to deal with, but just don't know how to handle it.
4. You learn that you can't help someone unless they want to be helped.
Sometimes, no matter how much you want to help someone or how much you think your advice (or the advice of professionals) will help, they just don't want it and will lash out at you. Like in Stephen Chbosky's book The Perks of Being a Wallflower, in which we accept the love we think we deserve, we accept the help we think we need. You can try to move a mountain, but that mountain ain't budging if it doesn't want to be moved.
5. You learn that sometimes, people are just a**holes. And there is nothing you can do to fix it.
These are the most infuriating of the bunch. This category of a**hole, the people who enjoy being jerks, are just that. They enjoy it. They stir the kettle of drama until it boils over and burns everyone in the near vicinity. They start sh*t. They spread rumors. These are, again frankly, horrible people (or just very bored) who are looking to cause trouble and if you are in the way, good luck. Also, this might be a good time to check in with this quote by William Gibson: "Before you diagnose yourself with depression or low self-esteem, first make sure in fact you are not surrounded by a**holes."
6. At the same time, you learn that there are nice people who will appear seemingly out of thin air to aid you in your time of need.
I will never forget the piece of advice my chorus teacher gave us after we, a group of sixth graders, completely butchered a song. She'd said that we've hit rock bottom and there's nowhere to go but up. Though there are a few different levels of "rock bottom," I feel like I've hit quite a few of them. And each time, random people seem to come out of nowhere to offer a word of advice, a small piece of kindness, a shared appreciation for life. I love this quote from Rumi: "Live life as if it's rigged in your favor." Because when I am happy, or I force myself to pull myself out of a bad mood, I find that everything works out just fine. I relax and I actually am more observant of the kindness of complete strangers. And sometimes, as I reflect on this now, maybe I was that kind stranger who helped someone on their bad day when they needed it most. What goes around comes around, and kindness is no exception.
7. You learn to forgive and forget. Or, to forgive and remember forever.
There are things people do that can be neither forgiven nor forgotten. But at times, it's better to forgive so you can be at peace with yourself and move on instead of holding onto this giant piece of regret, or anger, or hatred, or jealousy, or some other emotion that eats at you raw until you bleed everything you have out. Becoming at peace is the most important part. But sometimes, there's some memory, some action so pronounced, that had so much meaning, it's wedged in your heart forever and nothing you can do and no amount of time will ever dull that feeling or take away the pain. These people help you learn which pain you can put up with and which pain you can part with. Forever.
8. They show you ways to improve yourself... even when you don't see it.
These are the ones who ruthlessly push you, who say things and force you to become better. These people are the ones you don't appreciate until after everything is said and done, until after you played that big game or submitted a thesis or finished revising a book. These are the people who aren't quite a**holes, yet they passed the threshold for just being a nice person. They are cunning and they are wise and they know what the best is and they will not settle for less and on that note, they force you to not settle for anything less, either. They somehow see right through you, straight into the essence of who you are. And once they've found that nugget, once they've found that soul that needs some encouragement, some advice, some tough love, they pursue it and they stretch your potential until it's almost your breaking point (and sometimes, until after your breaking point) and then you feel so many emotions until it's all over and you realize they were your guardian angel (or guardian devil) who picked you up from the ground, shook the dirt off of you and kicked you out into the world and watched you exceed their (and your) wildest expectations. This, sadly, won't be realized until after the fact. Could be days, weeks, months, years. But when you know you've found this person who always pushes you to succeed, you'll never feel better.
9. You learn to control your emotion -- for better or for worse.
I can count the times that I've lost control of my emotions and exploded on someone on one hand. Though I don't believe in regrets, I do think back to those instances occasionally and wish they could have ended up differently. It's a horrible thing to go through, and more often than not, it's instigated by the statements and actions of those who were around me when I had already boiled over. So, to be on the other end of the stick is even worse. Thankfully, when situations like this happen, when the chaos on the outside seems to overshadow everything on the inside, it's the time when you need to look inward. Look deep inside yourself and learn how to find inner calm, inner peace and clarity in your thoughts. Or, in the worst-case scenario, just work out for a million hours and let the endorphins do the work for you.
10. They break your heart so you can put it back together, stronger than ever.
This one is the worst. There have been many nights of being utterly alone, feeling the loneliness and worthlessness consume you until you are barely there, sitting in bed, just waiting to go to sleep. Heartbreak hurts. Breaking up hurts. Love hurts. That quote "love is patient, love is kind..." is complete bullsh*t. Or maybe that's my inner bitterness peeking through. Overall, the people who hurt you the most are ones who you let in, so it's a double-edged sword.

But the most important part to learn from all of this is that hearts are muscles and they get tougher. Breakups are workouts for the heart. Learning how to love someone and be there for them and being in a relationship is hard. It's not easy. And with the breakups, you learn more about yourself than if you were still in a relationship. You learn you're a bada**, you're resilient and you have hobbies. Yes, hobbies. And friends who will support you through anything. Basically, a heart broken by an a**hole is, sadly, the best kind of lesson to learn because this forces you to be better, forces you to get up, brush the pain and hurt from your body and move on.

There's one final lesson that we learn from a**holes. We learn to appreciate what we have and that time is fleeting and should not be wasted on people who don't deserve it. Though it sucks, we do have the ability to cut people out of our lives who shouldn't be there. Overall, our lives should be spent on the people we love, the things we're passionate about and on living each day to the best of our ability.

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