Thank you to Heather at God in the City for prompting this post. It’s been a long time coming.
For me, one of the most difficult things about being authentic is that it’s not possible to be authentic in a vacuum. Exposing my weaknesses inevitably walks the line of exposing the weakness of another person. And that’s not my call to make.
A significant number of my internal struggles stem from my relationships with other people. When the challenges I’m faced with require the factoring in of what other people do and say, how do I externally work through them?
I usually don’t. I work through things INternally. But never showing anyone my “dark side” can leave people thinking I’m obnoxiously perfect. Let me be the first to tell you. I’m not.
Let’s take one example. I’ll keep it as generic as possible. What do I do about a particular relationship that nags at me? When, in real life, I want to look emotionless at this person and say:
“Sarcasm and passive aggressive manipulation and the silent treatment do not move me, so you might as well find the courage to say what you really mean and/or ask for what you really want, because when you lash out with sarcasm all I hear is my own voice saying ‘Give her grace, Julie, this is all she’s capable of. She can’t control her anger. She doesn’t have the courage to communicate directly. This is it. This is all she’s got.'” Sarcasm and passive aggression and the silent treatment from her. Pity, and if I’m honest, very little respect from me.
What weaknesses am I exposing here? For those who know me well, one of them won’t be a shocker. On an emotional scale, I’m pretty much below the radar. Scream and yell at me. Go ahead. You know what I feel? Annoyed at the noise. And before you are finished, I’ve already decided to distance myself from you in the future. I admit this can be a problem. I’ve had a therapist tell me I have “issues.”
Maybe I’ll write more on this particular character flaw another time.
But back to my example. Regardless of the weaknesses I might expose about myself, if I were to really work through this relationship, what weakness do I expose for the other person in this scenario? She appears to have said yes to more than she can handle. When she fails to meet the responsibilities required for a certain commitment in her life, she lets people down. She makes the job more difficult for the other people involved. Then she explains how busy she is and expects her excuse to be the equivalent of a free pass.
Who is NOT busy? Anyone? Anyone?
I hear crickets.
EVERYone I KNOW is busy.
Nobody has more time than anyone else. Everyone has the same 24 hours in a day. And in those 24 hours, we have choices. Some choices are difficult choices. Some choices are so difficult we think there aren’t any choices. (Tangent: I can’t help thinking of people who are 24/7 caregivers to a loved one. If that’s you, please don’t try to go it alone. PLEASE choose to get help.)
In this case, the person has committed to SO. MANY. THINGS. And from my point of view (humanly flawed and self-centered, I know), I see this person getting a lot of accolades. Most of these commitments are very visible. Does she commit to all this for the affirmation she receives? If so, does she even know that’s why she commits to all this? When she talks about how overwhelmed she is, how many people express their sympathy for her impossible (and I do mean impossible) schedule?
You can probably guess I am not one of those people. When she plays the “busy” card with me to explain why she isn’t prepared, I got nuthin. Now that I know what she’s bringing (or not) to the table, I’ve got more work to do. Is it because I don’t respond with sympathy that I’m a target of the sarcasm and passive aggression and the silent treatment? Because those responses appear to be an uncontrollable defense mechanism. She seems angry with me. Is it because I don’t express sympathy when she talks about how overwhelmed she is? Is she angry because she thinks I’m judging her? I admit it. My opinion? I can’t depend on her.
When she complains about how overwhelmed she is, the little voice inside my head is saying “SOLVE. YOUR. PROBLEM. Make the hard choices. Decide what’s important. Give up the things that are least important to you. Consider the possibility that you are hogging a job somebody else really wants – and might do better.”
I had to face these issues myself and it was no cake walk.
I picked this scenario as an example because this other person is so busy she doesn’t have time for the internet and I kept it as generic as I possibly could. But can you see the problem? Writing about the things I struggle with is one thing, but publishing it on the internet can hurt people.
How do I reconcile that?