As I look back, there was a time when I used to chat online with a respected elder, a prominent figure in the writing community with a sizable following. For some reason, he took an interest in mentoring me, guiding me in the art of writing. Unfortunately, the relationship soon turned sour, and I started to dislike him. He always appeared condescending and would mock and tease me amidst our writing discussions.
Now, I wonder why I felt that way about him. Were his criticisms of me accurate? From what I can remember, most of them were. After all, he had far more experience in life and career than I did. He possessed unique talents that I didn’t have. However, his condescending attitude never resonated with me. I, someone who had experienced being bullied, isolated, and teased throughout high school, found it challenging to digest his blunt criticisms, especially when they came with sarcasm and mockery. And he didn’t just behave that way with me; he displayed his superiority, teasing, and criticizing other individuals with their own “weaknesses” that I knew of. Perhaps he never thought he was wrong; he only believed that pointing out others’ faults was his way of doing good for them.
I no longer blame that elder, but I ask myself: Did he genuinely have my best interests at heart? Or was he, like many other talented individuals, simply seeking the thrill of displaying his superiority over someone younger and less experienced? The truth is, many of the things he pointed out did not really help me because of various reasons. For example, my knowledge and understanding were limited at the time, so I couldn’t grasp or apply what he suggested. Or it was simply that I couldn’t bear his superior attitude enough to truly contemplate his criticisms.
This situation is somewhat similar to when I studied in the UK, and I received a B grade in a certain subject. Back then, I always received A’s, so getting a B in that subject made me very upset. In order to get an A (after receiving a B in the mid-term exam), I used every trick in the book. I cited and quoted various reference books in my essay to demonstrate how much effort I put into it. I proofread my essay multiple times before submitting it. Despite receiving the final grade (another B) and reading the grader’s feedback, I still couldn’t see any flaws in my work; I only saw that I had omitted certain parts (!!!). Only when I pursued a PhD and delved deeper into the subject did I realize where my weaknesses were. It required a certain level of awareness and knowledge to understand.
I admit, I have also sought ways to satisfy that “thirst for showing off” in the past. I thought that if I was right, I had to point out others’ mistakes or deficiencies as best as I could. I didn’t know that sometimes I wasn’t really helping them at all. With their level of understanding at the time, they couldn’t do what I expected, and sometimes they couldn’t even comprehend what I was saying (not necessarily because they lacked ability, they just needed time to practice, to improve, to find their own path). Instead of understanding, sometimes they even grew to hate me (and I truly deserved it). But I never “offered advice” to help them; I only wanted to demonstrate my own correctness and superiority.
As I observe online arguments, I can’t help but find it amusing at times. I always think that online arguments are one of the most useless things in the world (but I’m still young and naive, so I can’t avoid being foolish sometimes). However, even when doing something so pointless, can’t people do it in a civilized manner? But no, many people can’t do that; they feel compelled to insult others directly, calling them stupid, inferior, ignorant. What for? All because of the thrill of displaying their supposed intelligence.