Ben

Dear reader,

The most prescient advice I’ve ever received was also the most simple: “Get over it.”

That nugget of wisdom came courtesy of my mom, who was listening to me complain for the umpteenth time about a situation I’ve nearly forgotten that occurred during a year of high school I hardly remember.

After my griping finally trailed off, she simply said, “You’re always going to have to deal with difficult people. Get over it.”

Her sagacious quip remains a governing philosophy of mine. Although I wish this was a universal platitude, an entirely different phrase, this one less than constructive, has seeped into the public sphere.

As 2019 rapidly approaches, so too have the myriad resolutions. Increasingly, I’ve noticed the phrase “Cut toxic people from your life” appearing as a New Year’s pledge.

Although on the surface level this seems to be common sense, the underlying message behind it is fundamentally flawed.

Of course, legitimately toxic people exist out there. Everyone has probably encountered at least one. They are those who seek to manipulate, whose motives are never clear until after they’ve accomplished whatever selfish goal they aspire to.

Those kinds of people should absolutely be sequestered from one’s life. However, it’d be no stretch of the imagination to say such individuals are few and far between.

I can’t shake the feeling that the loaded description of a person as “toxic” is overapplied. I’m concerned that the label is being misappropriated and is brandished against those who merely annoy us. In those cases, my mom’s advice certainly applies.

I’m sorry, Nancy, but your lazy group member probably isn’t a “toxic” person. They’re probably just aggravating.

People can be annoying, sometimes even downright mean, without being “toxic.”

Rather than being removable, these people present one of the best opportunities for us to grow as human beings. After all, what good is patience if we never use it? What good is kindness when we only grant it to those we deem worthy of it?

Don’t shirk away from those you find aggravating. Instead, apply the occasion as a lesson in becoming a better person. At the very least, don’t avoid them just because you don’t want to deal with them.

Inevitably, life will throw difficult people our way. In order to improve, we must go a step beyond “getting over it” and strive to grow from it.

Best regards,

Ben Larsen

Managing Editor