I’ve read a number of blogs lately with the theme of not being afraid to reach out when you need someone. These posts typically include lines like, “We may have never met, but if you feel like you’ve got no where else to go, please talk to me” or “I’m always here.” Pretty standard stuff.
This is, I assume, at least in part because the social media circles with which I have affiliated myself over the past year have seen a number of suicides recently, which has everyone shaken up. Oddly enough, this is the second community I’ve belonged to in the past year that has seen an unusually high number of suicides. The town where I live saw three of them in 6 months — all teenagers. The students rallied for some kind of support group. The administration largely ignored them.
Imagine that. One group of people reaches out for another, and is promptly bitten in the hand.
After the hand-biting, admin ignored those students until they gave up on the good in themselves and went away.
What I’ve found, though, is that people say this kind of stuff, these platitudes, to … what? Look better? Make themselves feel better? I really don’t know.
If you are truly interested in helping people through difficult times, does it not then follow that you should act kindly?
One relatively prominent figure who frequently writes about his desire to help people grow proceeded to tell me what a disappointment I am (those were his words) because he sent me a document that was filled with errors. He couldn’t be bothered to correct them (though he knew they were there) and, already overworked and UNPAID, I missed a few. Please, continue telling everyone what a great guy you are after you’ve treated me like I’m nothing.
Another person who has written several posts of this nature in recent weeks sent me a message a few nights ago to tell me that I had frustrated her and derailed her web efforts by posting something she wrote too early by mistake. This is someone who is so publicly kind to others that I was a bit taken aback.
These are people I’m supposed to feel comfortable reaching out to in hard times?
People I’m close to put me in the middle of their fights and make me feel like they’re pitting me against other people I care about. They make me choose sides when I don’t want to. They withhold and say really mean things that would imply that they actually don’t care about me. They create terms and conditions of friendship that I’m supposed to follow and tell me they’re non-negotiable. They undermine me in front of other people or tell me that their lives are too good to deal with me. I could cite a host of other examples, but I’m sure you get the idea. You’ve probably felt similarly at some point.
I’ve done a lot of things to hurt people, too. My cousin and I were discussing the other day how we both share an ability to blow up at someone, and then immediately feel the need to apologize (maybe we just crave acceptance. Who knows). But that’s the thing. I’ve noticed that so many of these people who claim to be there and to be kind, to be friends, are not, in fact, all that willing to apologize.
In fact, whether through an inflated sense of pride or a true lack of remorse, there are way too many people who appear to be incapable of true apologies.
Sometimes I find myself apologizing to them not just for my own mistakes, which I will readily admit, but for their own. I apologized for being a disappointment. I apologized for derailing web efforts. I apologize for not understanding things that people won’t explain to me or my unanswered questions. I apologize for telling the truth and, quite often, for things I had no part in. I apologize for people who don’t do it themselves.
If I hurt you and I know I’ve hurt you or you’re telling me that I have, or even if I just suspect it, you can count on an apology. In fact, you can probably count on several of them. Real ones. I’m not nearly cold, callous, and self-interested enough to say things like “Oh well. I don’t care. That’s life. Sorry about it.” I would rather over-apologize than seem uncaring or that I am hosting illusions of an inability to do any wrong. Because truly, everyone’s an asshole sometimes. It’s what you do afterwards that matters. I consider you a person in your own right, not by way of some kind of terms agreement.
I’d just kind of like to be treated like a person — good enough on my own — deserving of respect, too.
The irony here will be that the people who need to read this, can’t or won’t. At least not entirely, lest it cause them to become indignant.