There’s an old saying about walking a mile in their shoes before you judge someone. It would be awesome-great if people actually had to do this, but they don’t and most of them don’t have what it takes in their hearts to try and imagine another person’s grief or life challenges. Society, on the whole, is a pretty self centered bunch of folks.
So in lieu of wearing out your favorite kicks, what can you do to curb your neverending need to pass judgement on others? How can you develop some kind of empathy, in order to understand what this other person, that’s being such a tremendous thorn in your side, is feeling? Where is that ground, so you can stand on it and ponder for a bit?
My friend Paula (I refer back to her kind of often, don’t I? Well, she’s a real person! I’ll tell you where to find her at the end of this post.) has been sharing a lot about mindfulness practices and thoughts recently. One day she shared something about understanding why people do the hurtful things they do and that without developing some kind of understanding, we are doomed to continue suffering from what they dish out. I thought that sounded kind of necessary. If a little understanding and empathy could put an end to painful situations, then why not give that some weight?!
I decided to “put on their shoes”.
I asked myself a few questions to get the ball rolling.
‘Why would what they say or do, hurt me?”
“Is there something about their life I think is better than mine?”
“Why do I feel inferior to this person, that I would allow them the power to hurt me?”
That last question is a doozy.
I’m reminded of something I continue to find confusing. I watch these friends on Facebook that Like and Comment on another friend’s status and pictures. They all look very friendly, but that’s just not the case. Behind each other’s backs they’re telling other mutual friends how much of a loser the person is and how much they hate them. I watch one friend go between two other friends. She freely tells her other friends that one hates the other and yet I see her out with both of them and both of them are friendly with her and they are friendly with each other. So I wonder…is she as free with sharing these misgivings her friends have allegedly shared with her, with them? Because it doesn’t seem so. So, why did I need to be told they weren’t friendly? Who gains from sharing that? Certainly not me, because now I don’t trust any of them!
But why would you do that to your friends? You have devalued all of them.
The day that I can claim to dislike someone with that kind of vehemence is the day I stop being able to show up at the bar to have drinks with them, much less Facebook them. I just don’t have that kind of two-faced, negative energy in me. And I’m not interested in people that can do that.
So…let’s apply my new litmus test to this particular situation in my life.
Why would this situation hurt me?
The defensive little girl in me wants to scream back that they aren’t hurting me, but that’s a lie. This kind of behavior does hurt because I truly valued the friendships I had with these women. I did not want to look behind the curtain to see stuff like this because it wasn’t ever something I needed to know about them. It had nothing to do with me, or with her. If she were the person suffering from the dislike and gossip, then I could see how sharing this with me would be a relief to her, but this wasn’t the case.
If the friend sharing these stories had taken the time to know me, or to listen to what I said to her, she never would have shared those mean and hurtful facts about our other friends. And if she was a good friend to any of us at all, she would have squashed those tales the minute they were told.
Later in that friendship she would tell me that her other friends didn’t like me either. She did nothing to help me figure this out and instead decided to exclude me from parties, all the while smiling and claiming we were close friends.
It appeared this was her weapon of choice. Isolation and drama kept everyone in check.
This was when I had to ask myself why I kept trying to comply in order to stay friends with her. Was there something about her life that was missing from or better than mine?
I really gave this some thought. I could pass judgement here, and I’m not going to, because that’s the point of this exercise. I need to learn to figure this out without passing personal judgments. But after mulling this over I can tell you that what I miss are the fun times, even though towards the end they were nonexistent, but that’s about it. There is nothing about her life that I covet. Nothing. And that’s not saying her life is bad, it’s her life and it is totally different from mine, and I love my life.
When you start taking a long and hard look at the person you’re allowing to hurt you, you’ll realize the person that is in the worst shape and hurts a lot more than you do, is the person you’re allowing to hurt you. I have never found this to be untrue in all the years I’ve been alive. I was always in a better place every single time. It is hurt people that hurt people, so why can’t I see this and feel empathy for this person?
It’s also true that you can not control how other people behave, but you can control how you react to their behavior. So that being said…
I don’t feel inferior to any of the people in this scenario. I don’t feel superior to them either, on the other hand. I guess it bothered me that any of this is a topic for conversation and it’s not something I would ever normally participate in on this level. The Universe was forcing me to deal with a situation that was foreign and distasteful and I was doing everything except dealing with it.
My guess is that people that do cut between their friends in this manner and create chaos and dissension where there isn’t any, are simply trying to isolate individuals. Love must feel like it’s hard to come by, a commodity to be squirreled away and sectioned off. They want to be the center of the fun and if everyone gets along and has a great time together, or even a great time together when she’s not available, then tiny fissures must be inserted in order for her to maintain control and remain being the center of the group. That is probably what she thrives on. It must feel like her purpose.
Wow. That’s a lot of pressure! I can not fathom how incredibly depressed I’d be if I had to juggle all of that! I couldn’t do it!
In order to feel worthy she felt like she had to meddle and remove the shine from her other friends. The problem here is that even when you manage to rub the shine off of a friend to someone else, you will never be able to rub that shine on yourself like it’s glitter, because it isn’t. You have to find a way to shine on your own.
This post, which might seem like I could whip it out in a few minutes, actually processed and stewed within me for a few days. I worked to avoid falling into the trap of passing judgment. I wanted to find empathy for a situation that genuinely hurt me and I think I did. I dunno. I’m a work in progress.
Would I go back into this situation with some kind of renewal of faith in this friend that betrayed me in such a cunning and vicious way? No, I don’t think so, but I do feel for her and the painful path she has chosen for herself. I send her the love in my heart that was always there and hope she does well with whatever she chooses to do.
You can find my friend Paula here: Love.Life.Om She offers a free toolkit on her website and if you’re serious about gaining some newly minted peace in your life this year, I’d take her up on the offer.
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