I have always had a great respect for people who are honest to their core. Truth tellers you may say. You may not always like what they have to say, but still – they are honest. There is however, a difference between this and individuals who impress their opinion and perspective onto others in such a forceful and manipulative manner that almost forces the recipient into feeling like they are obligated to accept what is being shoved in their face. These are two ENTIRELY different kinds of individual and both with very contrasting intention.
There is a friend of mine that has been a part of my life since I was in grade 5. We were thick as thieves throughout our primary school years and whilst we lost a bit of contact when we went to separate high schools, we never lost touch completely. To this very day our friendship has remained one that can “pick up where it left off”. Yes, we have had our ups and downs over the years and our lives have taken two starkly different paths but the roots of our friendship remain unchanged.
Many years ago at the end of an incredibly toxic and physically abusive marriage and amidst my divorce just two months after my son was born, she came to my place one night for dinner. I was in an incredibly fragile place in my life at that point as my divorce had not yet gone through completely and everything was in complete limbo. I was also struggling to face the reality that I was about to become a single mother to an unplanned little boy.
I was thrilled that she came to my aid, and was so looking forward to having my friend close. The evening however, did not unfold quite as I had thought it would. In the middle of it all she suddenly dropped the bomb. “If it was me in this situation now – would you be here standing in my kitchen supporting me?!” Sadly, I knew the answer was NOT yes – and I knew exactly where she was going with it.
It hurt a lot to face the reality that I had not been a very good friend to her over those recent years and whilst yes, I had been dealing with everything going on in my own world… it really was no excuse. In that moment though, I stood there and I had no clue how to process it on top of everything else I was dealing with a the time and there was a part of me that really didn’t understand why she would do that to me right then, but she explained to me that she realised the timing may not be ideal, but that from her side – she actually felt like she had to do it then so we could get passed it, otherwise she would not “honestly” be able to support me moving forward if she was holding a level of resentment for me not having done the same for her.
Yes, it was a classic case of being cruel to be kind. She VALUED our friendship and was honest enough to cut through the crap right there. It was the best thing that ever could have happened. Her brutal honesty is probably the only reason we still have a friendship to this day, because she reminded me that even if we only see one another once a year, my life without her in it would be a very empty place. THAT is the kind of “truth telling” I am referring to when I say I hold great respect for such individuals.
On the flip side of that – the kinds of individuals which I do NOT hold a very high level of respect for are those that in a word are simply “bullies”. It is their way or the highway basically. I am not referring to this type of behaviour or individual in corporate or professional situations, I am talking about among friends and family. When looking at professional or corporate situations there are generally fundamental rules and systems in place, so naturally this kind of enforcement and direction makes complete sense, but when you are looking at a group of adults – be they family or friends… to my mind there should always be a line of respect which does not get crossed.
Certain people don’t seem to share that sentiment and when they feel that something is morally wrong, or does not agree with their own lifestyle choices, they voice this disapproval so strongly that it actually comes across as more of an accusation and character attack than it does as an opinion or piece of advice. This does not fly with me. Not in any way, shape nor form. At the end of the day, we may not approve of the choices which others around us make, but that does not mean that we cannot at the very least respect them. Share your opinion or concerns – sure! Nothing wrong with that… but that is where it should end (within reason obviously) – I mean if we are talking about a heroin addict that needs help – intervention may be a good thing, but even having said that – if you have stepped in several times and they continue to stray then there also needs to be a point where you say “enough is enough – the choice is yours now”.
Exceptions aside, as adults and individuals we have the right to make our own choices in this life and along with that, must be willing to accept the outcome, consequence and result of those choices. I have often gone against the flow of guidance and on many occasion paid a high price for those choices, but in the same breathe – there have been times where I have done that and been ever grateful that I did. Only we can decide whether we go left or right when presented with a fork in the road. This is our journey, nobody else’s.
And there is this amazing little thing that happens to each us on a personal level when we begin to accept that we cannot control the lives and choices of others… not only do we realise that we hold that option in the palm of our own hands too – but more importantly, we GROW as individuals. When we become more open-minded and accepting of others you will find that people afford you the same in return – for the most part anyway, but either way… it will no longer affect you on a negative level like it might have done before. When you are comfortable with where you YOURSELF stand… there is no reason to try and change those around you.
Life is short. Relationships and friendships are precious. It is important that people learn to pick their battles, otherwise an entire lifetime will pass you by and suddenly you will wake up and realise that there is no time left to change anything. Be honest but fair. Be honest with yourself and truthful (not forceful) with others.
Until next time...
Much Love from Cape Town, South Africa xxx
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