How to deal with terrible people

During the trip to work, I encountered a person which can only be described as an ass hole. After alighting from the train and passing ticket inspection, I was intentionally shoved into people walking in the opposite direction, and into the metal rail.

How did I react? I laughed.

This wouldn’t be my usual reaction. I’d typically get angry, storm after them, and hope an opportunity arose where I could return the favour. But it wouldn’t, and some form of negative internal dialog would likely surface and ruin more of my day than I’d care to admit.

But not today. This particular ass hole had chosen the perfect moment to make himself known to me as I was literally thinking about, in that particular moment, how Stoics deal with shameless people. It’s no secret that I’m a keen student of Stoic philosophy. During my commute I was reading Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations in which he stated:

“When you run up against someone else’s shamelessness, ask yourself this: Is a world without shamelessness possible?

No. Then don’t ask the impossible. There have to be shameless people in the world. This is one of them. The same for someone vicious or untrustworthy, or with any other defect. Remembering that the whole world class has to exist will make you more tolerant of its members.”

― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

It was no accident I was reading this particular passage. The evening before, I watched Ryan Holiday talk about How Stoics deal with A** Holes, which prompted me to pack my copy of Meditations to read on the journey.

In my situation, reality didn’t match expectation. I am mindful of others when I’m walking and expect other people to do the same. But reality doesn’t always match expectations. The perfect antidote was to be aware that ass holes exist. Because they exist, it’s possible we’ll encounter one from time to time. It’s illogical to believe otherwise. Encountering an ass hole was always a possibility, therefore, why should we be angry when it happens?

Because I was fortunate to have the perfect context on my mind at the very moment the situation arose, it was easy for me to choose the way I reacted. I actually found it amusing. Hopefully in the future I’ll be writing a follow-up post about discovering another ass hole, because - it’s going to happen eventually, and how I remembered the teachings of Stoic philosophy and how I simply went on about my day.

Or perhaps I’ll write about how I pushed them down the stairs. You know, because ass holes need to encounter other ass holes too, from time to time.