A motorist in Georgia video-recorded a truck driving down the road with a long plastic pipe dangling out the right side of its bed. As the truck drove along, the pipe kept striking each of the vehicles to its right. It’s unclear if the pipe inflicted any damage to the other vehicles. The driver of the truck was completely oblivious to what he was doing and its potential damage. Other motorists honked their horns to inform him of the pipe. When he finally decided to pull over, he hit a road sign in the process. Viewers of the video wondered how a person could bang away at so many other vehicles – trucks, cars, and school buses – and be so clueless.
When I read this it reminded me of a far more profound article from the LiveScience website. The article explained how people tend to be aware when they are being rude and offensive. A nine-year study monitored the behavior of 400 participants. The participants monitored their own behavior and annotated their perceptions at different times. They listed when they believed they were being kind, courteous, cooperative, or rude. Outside observers also monitored their behavior – with recording devices planted on the participants. When the participants and the outside observers compared notes they made a shocking discovery. The participants were clearly conscious when they were kind, courteous, outgoing, and cooperative with fellow workers. But they were invariably oblivious when they were being rude and crass. In other words, their level of self-awareness drops at times when they are being rude and disagreeable.
Another conclusion from this study indicates that courtesy and kindness require conscious effort. Whereas rudeness and boarishness, as unconscious behaviors, require no effort or intelligence. Consequently, it’s easy to be a jerk – an abusive and thoughtless person. It requires no brains, skill, or strength.
It’s easy to be a jerk – an abusive and thoughtless person. It requires no brains, skill, or strength.
What a contrast to our popular culture, in which people pride themselves on being offensive and hurtful. Maybe some people believe they have a “right to offend.” But let’s just state for the record that doing so speaks volumes of the type of person you are. It has been scientifically established that being intelligent and strong is incompatible with being a jerk. “Jerkness” is a true sign of an emotional and moral idiot.
Of course, science is only catching up with the Bible. The Scripture speaks extensively on the difference between the wise person and the fool (i.e. a jerk). “A wise son brings joy to his father, but a foolish son bring grief to his mother” (Proverbs 10:1). “Fools give full vent to their rage, but the wise keep themselves under control” (Proverbs 29:11). “The wise woman builds her house, but the foolish one tears it down with her own hands” (Proverbs 14:1). “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life and the one who is wise saves lives” (Proverbs 11:30) “Mockers stir up a city, but the wise turn away anger” (Proverbs 29:8). “The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing” (Proverbs 12:18). And here’s a modern one: “As a dumb truck driver is oblivious to the damage he does to other cars, so is a jerk who thoughtlessly offends other people.”
Dear Father in heaven, please help me to wise up and to stop offending others with my thoughtless words and deeds. Please grant me insight, skill, and strength to bring healing and help to those around me. Amen.