Christopher Bennage

not all who wander are lost

On Not Being a Jerk

My interest in making software well is an accident. What I’m really interested in is living life well. Chasing that chimerical beast of software “best practices” is merely a happy side-effect.

To that end, there’s an ancient maxim: ‘know thyself’. Despite over three decades of living with myself, I am often surprised by what I do. Surprised, and many times embarassed.

For example, last week I complained on twitter about what I had perceived as selfish and inconsiderate behavior of some of my fellow employees. It was quickly pointed out to me that I was wrong; that I was completely misinterpreting my observations.

Once I realized my mistake, my immediate thought was “Oh, I don’t want people to think that I’m a jerk. I wish I hadn’t said that”. Shortly afterwards though, I realized that I had been more concerned about what other people thought and not my real problem. The real problem was that I was a jerk. I had judged people I did not know with only scant evidence. This reminded me of another ancient maxim: “judge not, that ye be not judged”.

Now, here is the surpising conclusion. I’m glad that I stated my faulty opinion out loud, despite that it embarassed me, because it revealed my fault and I had to correct it. I had to confront my own prejudice and fix it. If I had kept the venom to myself, I would have gone on nursing my prejudice.

My take away: it doesn’t matter what people think about me, it matters what I am. It is better for me to surface my flaws and fix them, than it is for me to hide them and decay.