I was watching Celebrity Rehab last night. One of the patients said something cruel and insensitive to another, and in group therapy the next day, the offended patient remarked how she had thought that he was her friend (before the incident).
Dr. Drew was quick to point out that he still was her friend, it’s just that he’s a friend who messed up. I think a lot of us are quick to come to the same conclusion: That if someone does something that’s perceived to be against us, they aren’t really our friend, or the relationship becomes invalid.
Perhaps there are singular events that are so momentous that they alter the course of a relationship forever. But we’ve gotta be exceedingly careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater.
Put another way, make sure you aren’t throwing out the good with the bad. I’ve had no better teacher in this lesson than by making the decision last year to move to a small town.
Born and raised in Dallas, if a restaurant did something not to my liking, I would just blacklist it and never go there again. There are twenty million restaurants (give or take), and you could pretty much go on that way endlessly. Take that approach in Corsicana, however, and in very short order, you’re never eating at a restaurant again.
Similarly, take the example of having a spat with somebody. In a big city, it’s easy to write that person off and spend the rest of your life hiding in big city anonymity. Not so much in Corsicana, where you’re bound to run into them again and again and again.
So this year of small town living has been amazing for cultivating my perspective on an appreciation for people, places and things. I fancy myself as relatively un-petty, but like most folks, a couple of things stick in my craw.
One of them is not showing up. A couple of years ago, I got married. Our reception was amazing. Picture perfect, really. Not to mention ridiculously fun. I’ll remember forever the joy of being lifted up and surrounded by over 100 of our closest friends and family.
But once it was done, I couldn’t help but wonder about the folks who mailed back RSVP cards saying they would be there and then weren’t.
Confession: I went back to the cards and counted the no shows. There were 14. For my 40th birthday party this year, there were double that. I’m going to spare you the discourse on headcounts for caterers and expenses, and the philosophical message regarding the impact of social media on our social graces.
The point is that two years apart, I had the opportunity to decide how to react or respond to very similar situations. The truth of the matter is that Dr. Drew is right. When someone does something perceived to be less than savory, it doesn’t make them not your friend. It’s really not about that. It’s about the fact that sometimes life happens. Sometimes they’re showing up for you the way that they show up for themselves. Sometimes there’s unexpected storms. And still other times you might have just simply slipped their minds entirely.
Whatever the case may be, we all have the ability to choose to respond gracefully. At the end of the day, if because of a single perceived indiscretion, we push everyone away, the world will become quite sad and lonely. We all make mistakes and sometimes it’s in our perception of an event. My hope is that we ever increasingly learn to love people just as they are, so that in return, they may love us just as we are: Perfectly imperfect.
As always, please feel free to reach out through my criminal defense firm's site at www.shanastein.com/contact