Did you get cut off in traffic this morning on your way to work? It was probably a first-degree jerk doing that to you.
Did you get tailgated on the way to work, and then when the person
passed you and got in front of you, they deliberately slammed on their
brakes? That would be a second-degree jerk.
Were you in stop-n-go traffic and you were trying to follow the
safety rules of staying one car length behind the person in front, but
the person behind you was literally hitting your back bumper and
flashing you the finger every time the line stopped? That was
definitely an nth-degree jerk.
“Jerks are everywhere”, writes Dr. Paul Meier, author of Don’t Let Jerks Get The Best of You: Advice for Dealing with Difficult People. “In fact,” he adds, “I’m one of them myself. That’s why I’m so qualified to author this book!”
He goes on to state that each of us is a jerk to some degree or
another — unless you happen to be part of maybe 10% of the population
that is mature and has grown beyond any sort of jerky behavior
Just what is a jerk? According to Dr. Meir, a jerk is anyone who
exhibits selfish thoughts or behavior that is ultimately harmful to
someone else. After providing this general definition, he then goes on
to break down specific categories of jerks.
Mild to moderate selfishness = First-degree jerk.
First-degree jerks are actually the majority of the good guys in the
population — the people who try to be honest, fair, and trustworthy, but
who may find themselves being selfish now and again. People who are
first-degree jerks usually are without even realizing it. Any jerky
behavior they do, they don’t do purposefully. Forty percent of us fall
into this category.
Serious to acute selfishness = Second-degree jerks.
Another forty percent of us fall into this category. These people
purposefully and willfully manipulate, control, and abuse. Sometimes
they feel guilt, but not enough to stop doing what they’re doing. Dr.
Meier points out that the second-degree jerk will have an affair, feel
bad, but then have another one.
Severe to sociopathic selfishness = Nth-degree jerks.
These are the dangerous jerks, “the real sickos of society,”
according to Dr. Meier. They participate in abusive behavior and never
feel guilt about the pain they’ve inflicted on their victims. Another
name for an nth-degree jerk might be a sociopath.
Part of the crux of this book is that we can’t learn to deal with
jerks until we learn about why we allow jerks into our lives in the
first place. We need to understand how we even got to a point where we
let these kinds of people (usually the second-degree ones) ruin our
It always goes back to our childhood, Dr Meier believes, in some way,
shape, or form. Something in our early years (typically, though not
always, our role in our family of origin) shaped us into a masochist
with self-destructive tendencies. It is these tendencies that set us up
to be targets of second- and even nth-degree jerks.
After setting all of this framework up in the first half of the book,
defining jerks and setting the stage for how we got to letting them
into our lives, Dr. Meier devotes the last half of the book to finding
freedom from jerks. He labels it “Six Steps out of Masochism to
Be forewarned, however — he isn’t going to focus on the jerks and
validate all your pain and anger with them. Instead, he begins with the
first step of self-examination and discovering our own jerk within. It
seems counterintuitive, and yet it is one of the steps that needs to
taken in order to come to a place of healthy relationships.
Though it may sound at first like a book of “psycho-babble”, it’s
actually an easily read book, and one full of common sense. The reader
will more than likely find themselves nodding their head in recognition
and new understanding as they progress.
It isn’t a book for those seeking pity, however. It is a book for
those who are tired of unhealthy relationships and want to take active
steps to change that. It is a book for those willing to examine their
own hearts and motives instead of just pointing the finger at the people
ruining their lives.
Jerks are inevitable in our lives. Being ruined by them doesn’t need to be.