It’s Better to Be the Gatekeeper


The world is full of gatekeepers, and it would be complete chaos without them. That said, generally speaking, no one likes gatekeepers, even the nice ones.

Why Do People Hate Gatekeepers?

It’s simple. People don’t like being told they’re wrong, they don’t like being told what to do, they don’t like being inconvenienced, they don’t like being rejected, and they don’t like being punished, all of which are the job of a gatekeeper. What’s not the job of a gatekeeper, is to take things personally and be rude.

What is a Gatekeeper?

Anyone that stands between you and something you need or want to do. For example: cops, judges, landlords, bosses, managers, parents, teachers, customer support reps, forum mods, and don’t forget literal gatekeepers like: guards, TSA, parking attendants, toll booth operators, etc.

These types of positions are all extremely necessary, but they also receive a lot of hate, naturally. Some of these people grow a thick skin and are able to handle people that get angry with compassion, but a more common kind of gatekeeper, begins to hate the people they control right back and after being worn down, have a terrible bedside manner, and are no longer capable of treating people with a sense of decency or degree. Rather, everyone is an asshole and moron, and they gain a disposition to treat everyone that way, across the board.

As much as you hate going to the DMV and standing in line, trust me, many of those workers behind their desks hate you too and to blow off steam, probably make fun of you on their break. This is all natural, psychology 101 kind of stuff here. We’re all just human beings after all. No one can ever be completely professional, polite, and objective, 100% of the time. But, as is the case with humans everywhere, there are good ones and bad ones; there are good gatekeepers and there are bad gatekeepers.

Who Should be a Gatekeeper?

Someone who’s intelligent, mature, secure, has experience, empathy, patience, and can remain calm when people get upset (which is inevitable). On the other hand, this is a tough one, much tougher than who shouldn’t be a gatekeeper. I’ll give you a hypothetical example as to why…

Think about the world’s best brain surgeon. Say they’re so good that only they can do X, Y, and Z, making them perhaps one of the most exceptional gatekeepers, and an irreplaceable asset. They alone, have saved more lives than all the other brain surgeons in the country, combined.

There’s just one problem, they’re an arrogant prick and outside of serving their own ego to save the physical lives of patients, they don’t actually give a fuck about those patients’ emotions. They have terrible bedside manner and make their patients cry with their indifference.

Should they be fired? Probably not; they’re not expendable. That’s an extreme example of course. I think in most gatekeeper positions though, your ability to have empathy, to treat people with respect should be mandatory, or get the fuck out.

Who Shouldn’t be a Gatekeeper?

I think at some point, everyone gets the chance to be a gatekeeper, and if that person was bullied or had a controlling parent or feels weak or insecure, it might be the perfect storm for them to take advantage of and abuse the power and control they have as a gatekeeper. Of course, in an entirely different person, those same circumstances might be the very reason they make a concerted effort to NOT be an asshole, because they know what it’s like on the receiving end.

Both The Milgram Experiment and The Stanford Prison Experiment are useful reads to learn about how easy it is for people to both follow orders blindly and behave badly when put into hierarchical chains of command.

I Try Not to be an Asshole

I have a boatload of experience being a gatekeeper, nearly 20 years! And I’ll admit, while I’ll never be perfect, I was much worse in the beginning. Even in the very beginning when I was much younger and more immature, I still tried to be kind and positive, but if someone said “Fuck you!” I didn’t have the discipline to not say it back. I do have that discipline now and more life experience and a better understanding of psychology, but there’s always room for improvement.

For many years now though, while I’m sure that plenty of people have still hated me for the mere fact of my being in the role of a gatekeeper between them and something they wanted, I can happily say it hasn’t been for intentionally being rude, or sarcastic, or publicly shaming them, or making them feel stupid, or punishing them in retaliation. I do my best to help them AND not make them feel bad.

Ultimately, the problem is that many gatekeepers out there (I’m sure you’ve come across them) think that their only job is to keep the gate, but the secret is that they need to be nice while they’re doing it too or one day, even if they think they’re irreplaceable, they just might be.


Fuck gatekeepers, yes, but also they’re simply unavoidable. Even if you’re the richest person in the world, you still can’t avoid gatekeepers. It’s a necessary part of civil society. In my experience, the ratio of rude people to nice people is the same for both gatekeepers and the people they’re dealing with, 3:1.

Whatever side you’re on, you cannot control the other side; you can only control your own. Whatever side I’m on, I do my best to be polite and professional. Unfortunately, it’s not mandatory; it’s merely a choice. Only the people above the gatekeepers, the policy makers, have the ability to enforce their gatekeepers to behave. The problem is that they usually don’t, and those gatekeepers go unchecked.