How to be friends with a-holes

RELATIONSHIPS | 5 mins

Most of my friends are a-holes. *

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Let’s be clear—I love these guys. They’re some of my favorite people in the world. And maybe some of the reasons I love them so much is exactly because of the thing that makes them a-holes. I honestly think your life can be better by befriending these folks. You might actually have something to learn from them. Let’s dig in.

The key to all this is asking yourself good questions. **

What makes somebody an a-hole? Various internet searches define an a-hole (besides, you know, the thing in your butt) as “a stupid, irritating or unlikeable person.” For the sake of this argument, I’m narrowing that down to just irritating or unlikeable. Because stupid people is a whole other conversation. Which brings me to a second question.

Why would somebody be irritating or unlikeable? Most of the time that simply boils down to somebody who disagrees with me. And really, a lot of times it’s somebody who disagrees with me loudly. AND REALLY, sometimes it’s simply somebody who’s just loud. Reminds me of the classic Big Lebowski line.

Which leads to a very important question.

Do I even want to be around this a-hole? If the answer to this question is “no,” then it’s easy. Quit being around this a-hole. Stop reading and go buy a smoothie. But if it’s somebody you HAVE to be around, keep going.

Here’s where it gets tricky. Most a-holes have a redeeming quality or even MANY redeeming qualities. We actually DO want to be around them. The a-holes I know are loyal, smart, funny, hard-working, thoughtful, talented and inspiring. Some of them have my DNA. Some of them live in the same house as me. So even if they’re unlikeable or irritating, I still find myself compelled to be around them. A lot, even. A-holes are more interesting. Isn’t that why reality TV gets great ratings? Because a roomful of a-holes crashing into each other is way more intriguing than a drama-free conversation.

Next question.

Why is this person being so a-hole-ish? That’s a great question, even if I did happen to write it myself. Your next step—if the redeeming qualities outweigh the a-hole-ish qualities, or if you’re stuck being around this person—is to simply ASK THE GOLDEN QUESTION. When an a-hole-ish moment arises, ask, “Can you tell me more about that?” Oh, man. It can unlock so much.

Your next step is to ask the Golden Question:

Can you tell me more about that?

Let’s take that Big Lebowski clip for example. Why is Walter such an a-hole? If we were to ask him to tell us more about why he does things like pull a loaded gun on somebody in his bowling league, we might find out stuff like:

  • He cares A WHOLE LOT about justice
  • He really wants his team to win
  • He’s lonely and broken-hearted because of his divorce, and his friends are all he has left
  • Which means he desperately wants to protect his friends
  • There’s also some serious PTSD going on, because of serving his country in Vietnam

We suddenly discover that Walter is a protector. He’s the most loyal friend you could ask for. And, I know. Trying to get a guy to talk about his feelings is like getting a dolphin to smoke a cigarette (it’s not easy, but man it would be cool if you could make it work). Even a fumbling conversation to dig just A LITTLE BIT below the bravado and a-holery on the surface can yield amazing results.

Next question. An important one!

What if I’m an a-hole? Yes. The answer is yes. I’m answering for you and for me. I know people out there think I’m an a-hole. I can’t help it, because they haven’t asked me the Golden Question yet. I judge people all the time, and I’m sure they judge me. I’ve looked at somebody in line at Kroger, and thought, “look at that punchable face. Taking too long in line. Writing a check, like an a-hole.” Shoot, I was just an a-hole on Instagram like four minutes ago.

And when I’m faced with the truth of my own a-holery, I’m way more willing to understand and empathize with my fellow a-holes.

Which leads me to THIS question.

Is everybody an a-hole on social media? Yes. Even when posting pictures of their kids. Everybody knows those kids are a-holes anyway. I highly recommend NOT trying any of this on social media. You’re wasting your time. Hang out with an a-hole in person, it’s your only real option.

OK, one more.

What does this have to do with faith and God and stuff? Basically, the whole Bible is about God loving a whole bunch of a-holes. Pretty much everybody, except for maybe widows and orphans. Even the people he set up as leaders, or the people Jesus picked as disciples, or the guy he chose to spread the Gospel all across the Roman Empire—they were all total a-holes. But He loved them, and corrected them, and saw something redeeming in them, and yes, even asked them to tell him more about why they were doing those a-hole-ish things. So when you befriend an a-hole, you’re being more like Jesus.

So get out there. Ask good questions. Maybe go bowling.


* Sanitized a bit because come on, this is a church website. There are children present.

** If you really want to get good at asking questions, I recommend this book: A More Beautiful Question, by a guy named Warren Berger. It’s a quick read. You’ll feel smarter when you’re done, and you’ll probably be less of an a-hole.

Written by Craig Dockery on May 1, 2019