Message of the day:

"We must sincerely try to love all people. But when some people act like total dicks, love them only from a safe distance."

Yesterday, I wrote that message spontaneously and put it up on Twitter, and it's already gotten more likes and retweets than anything I've ever before tweeted. (I should say that I am not exactly the grand mistress of twitter — having not quite figured out yet how to negotiate its odd currents and sometimes snarky tone…but I do try.)

I'm glad they liked it, over there in Twitter world.

I must admit that I paused before I hit SEND, pondering if I should really use the eloquent turn of phrase "total dicks" — but then I was unable to come up with an adequate enough replacement for the term. Because let's be honest — when someone is acting like a total dick, sometimes you just have to name it for what it is.

But what are we to do about the total dicks in our lives?

By the way, people of both genders can act like total dicks, just to be clear. And sometimes people act like total dicks only for certain periods of their lives — during moments of stress, anger, indignation, self-pity, or an extremely bad bout of narcissism. Sometimes they move through their period of dickishness and return to humanity eventually. Hey — I've acted like a dick before, and so have you, most likely. But we got over it, right? And then we felt bad, and maybe apologized? All that said, some folks seem pretty committed to acting like total dicks forever.

What are we to do then?

Because we are called to love. And we believe in love. And we know that the world's problems are often solved by love. And for those of us who are particularly committed to living compassionate and open-hearted and loving existences, the behavior of the total dicks in our life can bring us GREAT CONFUSION.

Are we meant to just keep showering love on these fools?

Kind of. Or rather, yes. Love and compassion, both. It is a universal spiritual practice to try offering love and compassion to everyone on earth. But sometimes that love and compassion must be delivered from a VERY SAFE DISTANCE. Do not squander your love (in person, anyhow) on people who are unable to receive or return it.

And dear God, don't do what I have often done — don't try to prove to yourself what a good and loving person you are by allowing a total dick to keep treating you poorly.

Even the great buddhist teacher Pema Chodron, one of the best philosophers of love I have ever encountered, stresses the importance of smart boundaries when it comes to dealing with damaged or hurtful people. As she says, "Put people in jail if you have to, but don't close your heart." But, yes, do close your door. Move to another state if you have to. Stop answering their phone calls. Stop lending them money. Stop making excuses for their rude behavior. Stop volunteering to be their victim every single day. WALK AWAY FROM THE TOTAL DICK! But don't close your heart — because that would harm you. That only harms you. Keep loving, but also keep your distance. Protect yourself. Build a wall if you must, and then catapult some compassion across that wall. And spend your time and energy on the good and kind people only.

Because total dicks will always need our compassion. But they don't necessarily deserve our presence.

Be smart, guys.

via Elizabeth Gilbert’s Facebook Wall