It is a fact that when you live your life with your cup perpetually half-full you give people the benefit of the doubt more than others do, and you automatically put your faith in your fellow human beings to do the right thing. You believe in the essential goodness of mankind and approach life with a serious sense of fair play. It’s also inevitable that others will see you as naïve to some extent, or even just plain gullible at times.
Many years ago, we experienced a difficult business and family split that resulted in hurt for my husband. What happened way back was a classic example of us failing to see what was directly staring us in the face, because of our youth and our naivety, but most of all because we could not understand or believe firstly how others could behave so appallingly over a long period of time, and secondly, show no remorse once found out. It was definitely a case of the pair of us learning that when someone shows you who they are, you should believe them. But we hadn’t and it took us a long time afterwards to accept the truth. We resolved that never again would we allow meddling, manipulation or destructive interference into our family life, and we never have. Until recently, and this time we didn’t personally invite it in.
Time and experience certainly lend a degree of wisdom to humans, and also resourceful strength to deal with life’s ups and downs. But still my own naivety continues to trip me up occasionally, leaving me shocked and disillusioned. We cannot always choose who we have to deal with in our everyday work or personal life. Clashes of personality are common along the way and to be expected. That’s just normal. I’m talking about much more than that though. I’m talking about when another person purposely goes out of their way to make your life uncomfortable or difficult using a set of manipulative and devious devices that they’ve been carefully honing for a long time.
I’m pretty sure you will recognise the character type – this is the individual who displayed all the tendencies you despised at school; the one who made your life a misery, the one you avoided like the plague. And mostly, there was no way of making this person behave better. Talking and asking someone like this to change is pointless; they never consider that their behaviour is unacceptable or offensive. And they do not listen to anyone else’s point of view anyway. In my experience even people in authority struggle to communicate effectively with a person like this. And when you do voice your point of view and ask them to think again about their behaviour, this character type will damn well make sure you pay in some unimaginable way for having had the audacity to speak out at all.
The truth about why one human being sets out to inflict hurt on another lies often in the antagonist’s low level of self-esteem and their own insecurity. If you then add jealousy, selfishness, obsession or any other extreme human emotion into the mix you have a cocktail that could be used to make an explosive device such is its destructive power, and most of us have no natural mechanism to understand or cope with this.
I’m not sure why I continually fail to see that this type of character will never change when it comes to my own life though. I’m not stupid, I’ve had some serious crap thrown at me and coped admirably. But that’s when the crap looked like crap. When it couldn’t be mistaken for anything else. The problem arises for me I think when the crap I’m looking at masquerades as something else, and it’s then that I see a slim chance of the masquerading crap eventually polishing itself and opting to play fair.
There is of course the theory that you should fight fire with fire. I cannot go with that though. It’s always been my belief that to sink to someone else’s low-life depths and take part in a battle on their level serves no purpose whatsoever in winning a war. Instead I thought about it long and hard. I took advice from close friends and thought some more. Then I drew an imaginary line and walked away; this was the safest, most sensible option. I provided no explanation nor will I ever do so.
Hurt and disappointment fade. What will not fade, however, is my resolve to ensure that the promise we made all those years ago is maintained. I cannot be responsible for another person’s behaviour, neither should I be made to suffer because of it. And I will not compromise my integrity, or my long-held and hard-won morals and principles, the same ones my entire family live by.
I acknowledge that the human race is far from perfect, indeed no single one of us is perfect. I know that there are individuals near and far who are in some way so damaged, that they devote endless amounts of time to imposing themselves and their misguided beliefs, ambitions, habits and behaviour on others purely for their own selfish satisfaction, and they do so without a single care for those they climb over or trample underfoot on their distasteful journey. Often their only hollow reward is a pathetically sad and fleeting chance to gloat.
I also know that we continue to live and learn. 2016 then, provided me with a forced opportunity to learn from experience. That lesson will be bottled, labelled and displayed in a prominent position in our home, to be shared with our family, and it will be imprinted firmly on my subconscious to help keep me on the straight and narrow going forward. The label will read:
“When someone shows you who they are, believe them, THE FIRST TIME” — Maya Angelou