Hey – sorry for apologizing, okay?

Posted: May 29, 2012 in Life, living
Tags: , ,

“What if the truth makes me a bad person?”

A girl said that to a guy on a TV show when he asked her what she was really thinking.

Seems the first thing we think of, doesn’t it?  This need to appear as angels to everyone else, often at the expense of what we really think, or want.

This need to be loved, appreciated by everyone we meet, whether we know them or not, or whether they’re worthy of our regard seems ridiculous.  Illogical.

He says “I’m moving this weekend.  You’ll help me, right?”

I had something else planned for that weekend.  I don’t know – maybe I had an out of town trip planned with my girlfriend.   So I say “no, I can’t”.  And he seems disappointed, and maybe puzzled.  He thought we were friends.  In his opinion, I should have immediately said “yes”, because that’s what he thought friendship meant.  That I would put him first when he had need.

(The truth:  of course I can.  But I choose not to, because I’m prioritizing my relationship with my girlfriend.  That’s my true choice.)

Maybe that’s a bad example, but it’s the one I’m going with.

He doesn’t know that my girlfriend and I have been having some problems lately.  He doesn’t know that this weekend getaway was planned so that we could pay attention to each other and no one else, hoping we could work things out.   He doesn’t know that it’s been stressing both of us, and that we really need this time.

Instead, he assumes that I think he’s just not important enough.  And maybe, because of the unfocused illogical guilt I’m feeling,  and this need to stay on the “good” side of his friends list, I second-guess my answer and say “look – I’ve got something planned but maybe I can get out of it and help you out.”   And he sighs in relief.

Happens all the time, doesn’t it?  We’ll self-sabotage in order to “keep the peace” by which we mean “make sure people love us”.   We’ll even sacrifice people we do love in order to make sure someone else doesn’t feel put out by our selfishness.

Women in particular do it all the time.  I know because they tell me.  Not in so many words, mind you, but it’s there.   Their husbands or boyfriends called them a slut (not in a good way) and yelled at them for not coming home on time.  Or they did worse things.   These women have friends who have successful marriages.  Also, they go to church.  They have children.  Also, he apologized afterward, saying that he was too drunk and didn’t mean it.

Seems better to them to give him another chance (chance number 452 but who’s counting).   ‘I didn’t really have a choice” they say.  “I had to stay for the sake of the kids, and our home, and because people look up to us as Christians.”

Maybe I’m wrong – you can tell me – but it seems to me that there’s nothing the least bit dignified about sacrificing your truth because you think that it makes you a “better person”.  Or a “good person”.    You’re not a hero for holding onto that disrespectful or abusive relationship or that job or acceding to the demand for help just because you don’t want to be seen as a “bad person”.   What you are, bluntly, is a pushover.   You’re not a nice guy or nice girl or dependable or any of that other crap.  You’re an emotional doormat.  Doormats aren’t appreciated.  Not really.   What they are, is used.  People wipe their dirty feet on them, knowing they won’t complain.   People don’t even worry about a doormat’s opinion.   A doormat has no real valid opinion anyway.

I’ve seen what happens – I’m sure you have too.   People eventually stop being doormats.   They have no idea how much resentment was building in them, until one day when they finally explode.  When they demand a divorce or they flip out on their friends – and the person on the receiving end of this is surprised all to pieces.  “He’s lost his marbles” they’ll say – because they’re so confused about the origin of the drama.

So many of us aren’t faithful to our truth.  We’ll take care of our bodies, and we’ll take of our kids, and our bills and our spouses or boss or whatever, but we neglect our truth.  It’s the last thing we think of, and we think we’re saints because of it.  Unless we’re making blind people see, or lame people walk, we aren’t saints or heroes.

Being faithful to your truth means telling the truth.  Sometimes silence can convey truth.

A comment from a co-worker such as”I think that guy is a retard” can be met with silence.  Body language and a refusal to verbally comment is a way of telling your truth.

“You’ll back me up on this, right?” can be met with a stare.   Or you can say “no” (which is better) “I won’t.  I think you’re wrong.”

And here’s what I’ve found:  once you start telling your truth, and being faithful to it, people stop asking you for a blind acknowledgement of their nonsense, of their racism or of their cruelty or even of their guilt-driven demands of you.   You exude truth and aren’t afraid to speak it.  They know this, and they’re afraid to ask, knowing you’ll say exactly what you think.   I was actually quite amazed by this.   There have been so many times when I was waiting for a traditional “hey, back me up on this” statement, ready to speak my truth, only to find that the person wasn’t interested.  They knew what I’d say.

“No, Bob.  I’m not going to help you move.”

Feet square, eyes forward, looking right at him when you (or I) say it.   No apology, no explanation, no “I would but” or “I’d like to but I can’t”.  If Bob decides that this means you’re not really his friend, then his standards aren’t yours anyway.   A friend would have asked “if you’re not doing anything, that is”.   At the very least he’ll understand that you choose to help him when you truly want to.  It’s a deliberate choice when you help him – and all that much more appreciated because of it.  You’re not a doormat in that instance.  You’re a balls-to-the-wall standup guy (or woman) who knows what he wants, doesn’t shy away from it, and makes his own decisions on his own terms.

I have found that the more you practice speaking your truth, the easier it gets.  It’s actually addictive.   You might lose some friends.  (I did.)  Then again:  you begin to attract other lovers of truth – after which you can have some amazingly intelligent and thoughtful discussions.

This is not new for many who read this.  Others though might find it hard to imagine, or they might think they don’t have a problem with truth.  Some homework, if you’re interested:

Every day for a week, ask yourself at least once during the day “how am I not being truthful?”   Write it down somewhere.   A week later, take it out and read it.

I think you’ll be surprised.

I’m going to do this too, by the way – because I think even those who think we’re truth-tellers often find that there’s some way in which we’re not being truthful.

If you’ve already gone down this road, let me know how it’s worked out for you.  I’m all ears.  Eyes.  Whatever.   : )

Comments
  1. I nodded my head reading through most of this. I just came through an experience where a friend was angry with me for not including him on my personal fb page. I thought about explaining why but decided I really didn’t need to. People can make assumptions about why they were or weren’t included if they want to. *shrugs* But I don’t have enough emotional energy to consider what each person may imagine about my motives. I’ve already spent far too much of my time worrying about what other people think of me.

    The only part of your blog that I disagree with is the part where you say no to helping a friend move without providing an explanation or apology, one or the other. If it’s too complicated or personal to explain or you just don’t feel like it, then it costs nothing to simply say, “I’m so sorry I won’t be there.” Courtesy is important to me and if I couldn’t help a friend move I really would be sorry.

    • wolfshades says:

      Yes, I thought that might be a bad example to use.

      Still though, there are occasions when someone will make an assumption that we’ll help out, and they’re surprised, and even shocked when we say “no” without explanation. I frankly don’t see the need for it anymore. Friends and family know me, and they know I’ll put myself out for them if and only if it’s a deliberate choice on my part. They also know I’ll say no, and that I don’t appreciate negative assumptions being made as to any possible reasons.

      Tried to think of a better example but couldn’t. “Do you want to go see The Avengers?” “No” – that’s a better example, but weak.

      Agree with you right down the line on the FB thing. A lot of us have gone through that struggle, in one form or another. FB friendship is an expectation and obligation now – for many at least. My list, like yours, is very small. I’m okay with that. Keeps me sane.

  2. Kim, LD says:

    Have you read the essay “Lying” by Sam Harris? It speaks much to the benefits of telling the truth with some fabulous examples of just why one should. This made me feel. Thanks for writing it.

  3. Darlene~Bloggity Blogger~ says:

    I was raised by a codependent mother and I really didn’t know better until the mid-80′s when I came across the word in a book. Once I learned what it meant, recognized it in myself and got honest with myself, I fought my way out of that mentality. At first it was hard to say no, but, now I have years of practice. If I feel someone deserves an explanation, I will offer, but mostly not. You are right on when you said a real friend wouldn’t have asked, not assumed. I call them “high maintenance friends” and avoid them like the plague. Personally, I think you did good by placing your priorities in order over and above his assumption that you will drop your plans to accommodate his. No..that is not a friend.

    I don’t recall EVER asking a friend to help me move… If someone offered, I wouldn’t have turned them down, but the fact is, nobody EVER offered either….

    • wolfshades says:

      Interesting story Darlene. How long was it before you determined you were okay with saying “no” without apology? And then how long after that were able to do so without feeling guilty about it?

      These behaviours take years to develop and I’m guessing quite a few years to get beyond as well. (Which sort of makes sense).

      I have asked friends to ask me move – it was sort of a shared world: they asked me, I asked them, and so on. (Reason #2 why that was a bad example to use for this particular blog.) BUT….I don’t recall ever expecting anyone to do anything for me just because I asked and thought they owed it to me. And….it took a while for me to realize that there are a myriad of reasons why people say and act the way they do, and that most times, those reasons don’t have anything to do with the black and white way we’re taught to look at things. Babies aren’t born as cynics and mufflegrumps. They get that way after bad examples, limiting environments and horrific examples. And sometimes they’re not grumpy at all. They’re just thinking.

      Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts!

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