It was a startling realisation. I’m not even being facetious.

I was raised and went through school with the idea that we have to make an effort to be friends with everyone. Be polite, be civil, be friendly, be helpful, be kind.

Values that Harm.

I still hold a lot of those values. I will go out of my way to be helpful. I believe kindness is one of the most important, yet most under-valued, traits that a person can have. Manners cost nothing. Civility is the bare minimum of expectations but it’s important. If you can’t even manage that, you won’t get far.

The darker side of these values instilled in me was that I was far too willing to put up with shitty people, because I was socialised to do exactly that. I would try to see the good points of a person and ignore the less-than-good. Is it a girl thing? I wonder if it is. Girls should be nice, girls should be tolerant. Girls are raised to put up with all manner of bullshit, but that’s how Patriarchy works, right? We know Patriarchy holds us back, restricts us, limits us, sets us up for victimisation. So not being friends with jerks is just one small way around that.


Say No to Jerks.

It took me 30 years to work this shit out, so I’m sharing it with you in case you don’t know yet, because someone telling me might have made me see the bloody light sooner. You don’t have to put up with jerks. You do not. People that are jerks have no place in your life. Some people who are jerks are not optional, like family members, but most of them are. Even family members that are jerks do not have to be tolerated all the time.


On Walls and Other Walls.

I used to be friends with some truly dreadful people. I would socialise with them, feel obliged to invite them to things, have coffee with them, be Facebook friends with them and put up with the awful things they said with gritted teeth. After seeing them in person or reading something they posted online, I’d explode to someone more reasonable about the dickish things I’d forced myself to listen to. It’s not that I sat there and put up with it- I’d put my two cents in. But arguing with someone who is, say, extremely racist, is a bit like arguing with a wall.  A noisy, racist wall. But a wall, nonetheless. They are a wall and you, the voice of reason, will not budge them with your sound and rational arguments. They probably feel like you are a wall too- but the difference is they don’t want to hear what you have to say, you’re just a wall, they can graffiti you all over with their racist remarks and as a wall, there’s nothing you can do. Same goes for the mansplainers, the homophobes and the climate change deniers.


Stop being a wall that hangs out with other walls that don’t share your values. Do you see what I’m saying, despite my poor analogy?


I used to engage with these “friends” all the time. Whether it was race or feminism or politics or whatever, I’d enter into these discussions not because I was desperate to be right or to be smarter than they were but because I wanted to believe that they didn’t really feel this way, not really. They were my friends. I wouldn’t be friends with people that really thought asylum seekers should be turned away. I wouldn’t hang out with people that really thought Aboriginal people should just “get over the past” and stop “expecting special treatment”. Why would I celebrate special events with people who actually believed that feminism was an excuse for women to make superiority to men a right? I wouldn’t! Of course I wouldn’t!


But I was. So I debated, discussed, argued and bashed my head against a thousand brick walls in an effort to convince myself that they were good people who just liked healthy debate. Maybe they just liked to play Devil’s advocate, maybe they just didn’t know about certain things. Like, maybe they’d never heard of the Refugee Convention and read too many Daily Telegraph articles so if I were to just let them know about it, they’d come around. Maybe they didn’t know about the Gender Wage Gap or the disparity in life expectancy between Aboriginal Australians and white people,  so if I were to just show them this link or tell them about this statistic…

Cognitive Dissonance.

Turns out, trying to share information with people who have no interest in changing their views is a bad idea. An exercise in frustration. An example of cognitive dissonance on more than one level. The first is level is that they are unwilling to bend because they don’t actually want to so they will ignore or actively try to discredit your information or point of view. The next level is when you persist because you’re sure your friend is a good person who doesn’t really believe what they’re saying- they just don’t know about x or haven’t considered y or whatever. This is what I had to learn- this was my cognitive dissonance- my refusal to accept that what they were telling me was, in fact, what they thought or believed.


How to Deal.

Are you nodding your head? Is this you, too? You have friends, maybe a heap, maybe a few, who fit the bill? Like, they’re nice enough but actually, they are mad racists or shockingly homophobic or endorse some other thing that goes wholly against whats important to you? There’s no really easy way to deal with this, but you’re not at school anymore. Give yourself permission. You can try to slowly distance yourself until you are just kind of acquaintances. You can politely refuse invitations, stop issuing them yourself and generally minimise contact. If they notice, they might ask what’s going on- or they may be quietly relieved, who knows? You can make excuses if they do ask or you can tell it to them straight. I’ve done both and telling it straight, I have to admit, feels pretty good. It’s freeing. It’s breaking away from this conditioning that you must always be NICE and POLITE and you must PUT UP WITH IT. You do not have to do these things. There may be fall-out; it may cost you other friends or make upcoming events awkward or whatever. MILEY

But there comes a point, when you’ve gone through your friends list like Miley on a wrecking ball, when life is suddenly less fraught and so much more pleasant. Your friends, the real ones that are left, are people who get you and you get them.

You don’t have to tolerate or (worse) accept people that treat you condescendingly, that mock, trample or put down the ideals that matter to you. Once you realise that, it gets a whole lot easier.


#IBOT @ Essentially Jess.

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  • Hugzilla

    “I was raised and went through school with the idea that we have to make an effort to be friends with everyone. Be polite, be civil, be friendly, be helpful, be kind.” I hate this! We need to stop telling kids this! It is perfectly OK for them not to be friends with everyone AND IT’S NOT A FORM OF BULLYING (god, I am sick of people who say that). When we say these things to out kids, we take away the power of their own gut instincts about people. It’s so damaging. As long as they are still otherwise civil to each other I don’t even think it’s damaging for kids to exclude other people from their peer groups. We need to trust kids to make their own judgments, to negotiate their own conflicts and to navigate their own relationships. Rant over, and I will now keep reading. LOL!

    • What an excellent rant- I agree with all of it!

  • Thankfully I don’t appear to be friends with anyone who would fit any of the categories you describe! I have recently moved on from some friendships that were unbalanced and awkward though. Glad you saw the light!

    • Even those friendships are freeing to leave, I reckon!

  • Absolutely! Another thing that gripes me is chasing people to catch up. I have stopped doing this realising that people who want to be in your life will be in it. Front and centre. I have also tried to let go of negative people as well. Getting there slowly.

    • Yes- I understand some people are time poor but it just gets beyond a joke!

  • Love this!
    I am trying to teach my kids that it is important to be kind and polite, but that you don’t have to agree or like everything or everyone!

  • Lauren Hunt

    Well said Ams, I’m currently experiencing a relative being a jerk – won’t get into the nitty gritty of it here, but it’s so hard when you feel obligated to see them and attend all the family events. So important to put yourself first though! And after that – those immediate family members who matter most.

    • That is a hard position to be in- just have to find a good bit of distance.

  • Shared this earlier, so you know I agree strongly!
    The only part I disagree with is “Some people who are jerks are not optional, like family members”. I’ve cut out family members who are severely detrimental to a happy life for me.

    • True- I meant more like not optional in the sense that you can’t remove every and all ties- but you sure can cut them out so their impact is minimal, even if your aunt so and so insists on telling you what they are up to etc.

  • Hallelujah! Facebook really brings out the “old friends” with their racist, xenophobic views and their invitations to join the “Stop halal food” groups. They’re pretty easy to give the flick on the first offence. I find relatives harder, but the unfollow button means that I don’t have to read their views. When they comment on mine, well I just really ignore them now, having learned your lesson that you will not change their views with seasoned argument or, well, facts….

    • Oh yes, I have a few of those. The mind boggles!

  • It was my 30th school reunion a couple of years ago and open to everyone who started in yr 8 with us. There were a lot of kids who finished school asap or in yr 10 who were absolute shockers. A FB page was set up for the reunion and suddenly I was getting ‘friend’ invites from people who were revolting bullies at school. I’m sure they’ve probably changed but unless I’m likely to have an ongoing friendship with them I couldn’t be arsed….. Life’s too short!

    • I never understand that- why friend someone you had no interest in, nothing to do with or harassed mercilessly??

  • I’ve had to eliminate a bunch of people on FB because they were giving me the shits. One even complained about it, but I just ignored her. Life is too short to put up with jerks.

  • Gosh I love this! Some people just can’t be helped!
    I have one ‘friend’ who posts in forums every day with questions like ‘What shall I cook for dinner?’ ‘When should I take my child to the doctor?’ ‘How do I get to my local shopping centre?’ etc.
    I sit there, with gritted teeth wanting to say ‘HAVE YOU NOT HEARD OF GOOGLE? How do you get through like/ be a parent when you require so much help to get through each day!?’ But I still can’t cut ties as it’s kind of amusing some days. 😉

    • Oh I know some like that. “Please tell me what to do- life is hard”. Sigh!

  • Natalie @ Our Parallel Connect

    I was taught the same things Amy. I often let things go just to keep the peace. Only today I am torn about a so called friend of one of my children. She is being nasty and I think it’s time to let the friendship fade. But this is upsetting my child and it puts me back to high school and all this crap

  • My Dad actually raised me a little differently. From an early age he told me to respect myself and not be friends with people who didn’t treat me well and weren’t nice people. Along the way I have most definitely had toxic friends and found it difficult to let them go because despite my Dad’s influence I am a people pleaser and thought it was vital that everyone I meet like me. As I ventured into my 30s, I really started to listen to what my Dad was saying and I cut a few people from my life. Sounds harsh, but I’m better for it.

  • I’ve been having conversations with my girls about this type of thing lately albeit at a primary school level as being new to school and the town we are all meeting lots of people and trying to find our way. My message to them has been while you have to to be kind to everyone you don’t have to be friends with and spend lots of time with people that aren’t nice. I’ve been trying to help them understand the difference between true friends and aquaintances which is a difficult concept when you are 7 but I’m hoping that they can work it out much sooner than I did! Great post.

    • That’s a great way to parent, IMO. Very wise.

  • This is something that’s been sitting with me for awhile too. I recently confronted a “jerk” I felt good and guilty about it, but I’m glad I did. Because now they know they can’t continue to treat me like that. Here’s to getting rid of jerk’s in our lives!

  • I think, unfortunately, it’s something we need to learn for ourselves. It took me years to break ties with a few toxic people and when I did, life was so much lighter. After that I was very guarded with who I got close to. I don’t see the point in investing in a relationship with those are disrespectful, overtly opinionated and downright jerks. Life’s way too short.

    • We do need to learn it but at the same time, being aware it was a real option might have opened my eyes sooner!

  • “Be polite, be civil, be friendly, be helpful, be kind”, yes. Be friends, no. x

  • I’ve always wanted to be friends with everyone because I guess I was bought up to do so. I’m also a people pleaser which means I tend to put everyone else’s needs before mine so I usually get walked all over – two good reasons to get rid of people like this from my life. The only up side to losing a heap of friends once I had a baby was that some of the bad ones went as well, without me having to even attempt to end the friendship. Yay. #teamIBOT

  • Mel Roworth

    100% with you on that last paragraph.

  • You’ve realised this at a much younger age than I have. I’m only just starting to get my head around it now, and I’ll be 50 on my next birthday! I have a couple of long time friends that have been upsetting me for years – always pouring cold water all over my mad ideas and schemes and plans. It’s only this year I’ve started thinking, with friends like that, who needs enemies? I’ve stuck it out this long because they were friends of such long standing, but have started distancing myself and spending more time with more supportive friends.

    • You don’t need friends like that. Good friends should hear about your mad schemes and ideas and be right there willing to help!