Thoughtful Thursday: Misanthrope

February 7, 2013

Thoughtful Thursday

Welcome to the February Intelligentsia.

#40: Elana from Elana’s Musings
#34: A from Are You Kidding Me?
#33: Lost in Translation from We Say IVF, They Say FIV
#32: Strongblonde from Strong Blonde
#22: St. Elsewhere
#20: Lori from Write Mind Open Heart
#15: Mel from Stirrup Queens
#15: Sara from Aryanhwy
#4: Mina from Kmina’s Blog

Thoughtful ThursdayMy father said something the other day that surprised me. Well, I guess it surprised me and it also didn’t. We were talking about someone that he doesn’t get along with, and he said:

I almost never dislike anyone. Well, except for disliking everyone.

My father is not only an introvert masquerading as an extrovert, he is also a misanthrope masquerading as a philanthrope. One of his greatest strengths professionally is his charm, but he’s totally pretending. I think he actually loves humanity, except when he doesn’t.

My husband is totally a secret misanthrope too. I’ll often hear him mumbling, “I hate everyone,” or, “People are horrible.” People who interact with him, though, think that he is kind and gregarious. Because he iskind and gregarious. He just doesn’t think much of humanity.

DH’s father is a not-so-secret misanthrope. He is tremendously warm and engaging to people he likes, but he’s not keen on making new friends nor on superficial social interactions. He succeeds professionally not through charm but through an air of authority (as well as being good at what he does). Being crusty is part of his schtick, but I really think that it’s genuine, much of the time. I have to wonder whether being the son of Survivors contributed to his lack of faith in humanity.

I am also a secret misanthrope. I like individual people, and I dislike other individual people, but outwardly I project the image of someone who truly wants to help other people. Because I do want to help, and I do help. But I also send venting emails to my closest friend or husband that consist of things like, in all caps, FUCK EVERYONE. Unlike the loved ones that I’ve just described, I actually have a lot of faith in humanity, but that doesn’t mean that I want to put forth the effort to actually interact with most of humanity. And, I’ve been burned enough that my lack of faith feels warranted.

Not everyone I know is a misanthrope, of course. My mother loved to meet new people. She didn’t trust new people, but she liked them. She had such a soft spot for the needy and the downtrodden. She’d do things like buy a crate of fruit that was more than she could possibly eat, explaining that she would share some with “my homeless guy next to the mall” or “all of the guys working at the car wash.” She never gave any panhandler a dime, but she’d feed them and clothe them and speak to them with a smile.

One of DH’s siblings is, more than anyone else I’ve ever known, a true humanitarian. A decade ago, when she was 13, we were visiting a relative in a rehab hospital. An scruffy amputee was slowly trying to propel his wheelchair down the hall. Everyone else kept walking past. She stopped what she was doing to help him get where he was going and fill up his water pitcher. But more than that, it was the way she spoke to him. Sweetly, gently, looking him in the eye, like a person. Most 13-year-olds seem to avoid eye contact even with people they’re supposed to talk to, let alone someone who makes most people deeply uncomfortable, but she dealt with him as an equal — not kid to adult, nor able-bodied to handicapped — because in her heart she truly believes that everyone is her equal. She has been the kind of kid who worries her elders because she is so trusting, so good, that she seems poised to be taken advantage of. But, so far, treating everyone with genuineness and respect has resulted in nothing but good things coming back to her.

People like her are almost enough to cure my misanthropy. Almost.

Are you a misanthrope? Philanthrope? A mix?

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13 Responses to “Thoughtful Thursday: Misanthrope”

  1. Mina Says:

    I am so glad that St. Elsie brought me to your blog. You blow my mind with your weekly topics. 🙂 I am also quite chuffed that you are using wp and I can write more than a couple of sentences than I can on blogspot, before it freezes me out. Stupid tablet and all that, but it is what it is. On to our sheep. Pun intended.

    I am a misanthrope who trusts most people she meets the first time. Not the smartest move on my part, especially since I believe it is a mistake to start human interaction from the premise that people are smart and have good, or at least neutral intentions. Even though I have had my fair share of disappointment in humans, I still believe it is only fair to start a new human interaction giving the other new person the benefit of the doubt. Almost all new people are decent and kind until proven otherwise. This helps ME be decent and kind until I have a reason to cease being so. And decency and fairness and most of all kindness go a long way with most of the people. Perhaps because they expect the others to be hostile in this dog-eat-dog world?! Anyways.
    I think we are misanthropes because it is a way of insulating ourselves against disappointment. But we are mighty glad to be proven otherwise. Nevertheless, it is one thing to be misanthrope while reading the newspapers and another to be one during actual interactions with people in real life. All the newspapers write about are people who do something wrong, because it is the negative and the dramas that sell and make profit. Happiness and kindness, not so much. And this is why kindness is such a rare thing to be found these days, so few people role model kindness as an inspiration to others. Success is what matters most, and success is rarely based on kindness. I have digressed, haven’t I? 🙂 Oops.
    So yes, I am a misanthrope for whom humanity is mean, petty and not to be trusted, because they cheat, steal and do despicable things, but whose personal interactions with real people are mostly nice and fulfilling. A mixture of theoretical myisanthrope and practical philanthrope. Does this sound like an accurate description for 80% of us? 🙂

  2. St. Elsewhere Says:

    I am a mix.

    You can expect thoughtful, selfless kindness from me for complete strangers.

    You can expect me to cringe and curl too.

    I am definitely somewhere in between.

  3. Sara Says:

    Die-hard misanthrope here, and unfortunately I’m not always good at covering it (though I have gotten better at recognizing and removing myself from situations where it would come to the fore before it does).

    My biggest beef is stupidity. I have very little tolerance for stupidity, especially when it’s willfull. I also have little patience for people who can’t be bothered to put a little effort in to what they do, or who can’t be held accountable for their own efforts (or lack thereof). When I was younger I plan to teach high school when I grew up. It didn’t take me too long to realize this was not a good idea: college freshmen are about my limit, and if I had my ‘druthers, I’d only teach graduate students. 🙂

    One reason why I dated so little in college was not lack of opportunities but that I refused to date someone who was not as smart as me (and I don’t mean this in a priggish, snobbish, prideful ‘I’m a genuis’ sort of way, but in an ‘I know lots of things and am interested in lots of things and want to know more about the things I don’t know’ sort of way). 10 years, two M.A.’s, and two Ph.D.’s later (one of each for each of us) and I’m still regularly amazed at the breadth and depth of my husband’s knowledge. I’m not sure I’ll ever reach his level, and I love it.

  4. Mel Says:

    Probably more philanthrope than misanthrope, though Josh always says that I have a deep Wieselian side to my personality. People are animals. Wonderful animals, but animals nonetheless.

    That said, I am also a hermit.

  5. Elana Kahn Says:

    Honestly, I love everyone until they give me a reason not to – and most people don’t give me enough of a reason to hate. And even sometimes people do, like bullies in school, so that back in the day I did hate them for the pain they caused, but now that they don’t bother me and are civil, I no longer dislike them. I don’t even hate people who have caused me considerable emotional pain (like an ex-bf), But I am a homebody and would prefer sitting at home and talking to people on Twitter than actually going out and doing something. lol Anyway, I try to greet everyone with a smile and the benefit of the doubt, and it usually works. I think there’s some good in everyone, and it’s my job to find that good and bring it out.

  6. a Says:

    I am an outward misanthrope (veering toward, but not yet reaching, curmudgeonly), and an inward philanthrope. My favorite phrase is “People suck.” I mean that generally, but not really individually – once you get to know them, sometimes they’re OK.

    I assume most of this is because I’m an introvert and can’t be bothered much with people’s drama.

  7. Shelby Says:

    Both of my parents were misanthropes, so it follows that I got a touch of that, too. No, who am I kidding? I’m a total misanthrope at heart (but an expert at hiding it), except that my misanthropy is pretty specifically geared to groups and not individuals. Individually I really enjoy people, but herds can make my skin crawl. In fact, I was on my way to becoming a 3rd grade teacher when this dawned on me, so I changed my path to a career dealing mostly with individuals (small groups at most). I dread being asked to sit in on a class for a teacher, even for a few moments. Hate it. I watch kids who I enjoy individually converge into groups and become completely different (and far less admirable) specimens. I’m thinking my words might be of someone scarred from working with teenagers!

  8. strongblonde Says:

    i feel like this is the first time in a long time that i really have no answer. in some ways i’m a philanthrope: my clinical time is at a homeless shelter, i work on projects to help medical people understand how to care for the medically underserved, i donate time to the health department’s STD/HIV program. but those are all in my professional life. is that because of an ethical obligation of my profession? or is that me? in my personal life i’m much more introverted, often preferring to stay at home rather than go out. i’m very wary of new people and don’t sit in my house or car without it locked. ever. i’m aware of my surroundings and find myself glancing at nearly everyone with some sort of suspicious eye. but how much of that is a product of where i grew up and the experiences i had in the murder capital of the country?

    so do i dislike humankind? sometimes. but maybe it is more of a problem with trust rather than like. i do find myself mumbling about how people suck and society sucks and what have we come to…. but that is generally linked to a specific event in the news, a particularily bad case, or the kids telling me that kids at school don’t have boots because of some bad stuff that happened at their house.

    i suppose this makes me a mix.


  9. I’m a mix, but I probably look more philanthropic from the outside than I do from the inside.

  10. loribeth Says:

    Is your husband related to mine?? That sounds EXACTLY like him. I’m probably more of a mixture.

  11. Cat Says:

    I don’t know what I could be classified as. I like individuals, but I hate people. I have faith in segments of humanity, but virtually no politicians are included. I’m in my second stint on the Mission & Outreach Committee at church and have gone on 17 mission trips with our church to help others, mostly rebuilding after natural disasters. I buy those bags at the grocery store that are full of nonperishables for local food pantries. But, as a whole, I hate people. If I like you I’m friendly and warm (at least I think I am), if I don’t like you or don’t respect you, I struggle to even be civil.

  12. Ana Says:

    Half the time I say “people suck”, the other time “people are so amazing”… so I don’t know. I really don’t have an answer for this, I expect its not black & white for most of us.


  13. I’m a bit of a mix, leaning more towards philanthrope, but sometimes only because I have this stupid thing that I want people to like me (inherited from my dad)…. This also makes me swallow my pride because I don’t want to start a fight. So now that I think of it, that probably makes me from the outside a definite philanthrope, from the inside a mix, leaning towards misanthrope… (thank you for this psychological assessment – and sorry for commenting on all the February TT posts in one go again! just was crazy busy with work the past few weeks…)


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