A Real Friend
I had a friend I first met on an email discussion group on the Internet, at least 13 years ago. We met in person a few times over many years, but mostly we emailed and very occasionally talked by phone. In fact, we have not connected in a good while now. However, he helped me see something about myself, which really changed my life.
My friend was wise in areas I was not, and he was more an advisor than anything else. When we knew each other best, I was struggling with why I was in pain about human interactions in my life. It seemed whether I knew someone well or not at all, things were more difficult than they needed to be.
A Life-Changing Phone Call
We had a long phone call (years ago). He listened to me for a long time, and asked me questions. He actually listened to my answers.
One of the issues at that time for me, was the need for justice… not only in law and society, but on a small scale, even one-on-one. I had started to realize that life is not always fair. I was very clear that “sometimes we do not get what we want,” in part because I had friends with toddlers who thought that “I want this” meant “the world must provide this for me.”
Now, I realize that all people are “the star of their own show.” That’s a paraphrase of something my friend Cynthia said just today. In more blunt language, we all are self-focused, self-centered.
Now, it’s important that we do look after ourselves, because in the end our survival depends on it. And yes, I realize this is true of me as well. I’m not pointing fingers at others at all, and I’m not saying this is inherently bad (or good). It just *is.*
So my friend/advisor listened well for a long time, until it was his time to reflect back to me what he saw, from outside of my perspective. And at first what he said seemed wrong to me. However, the longer I live, the more I find his wisdom in that talk. And it continues to shape my life, in helpful ways.
He said in so many words, “Lynn, you use the word justice but you could instead use the phrase self-righteous. In order to determine who is right and wrong, you are deciding that you alone are the one who knows the ultimate answers.
“You are human. Can you just picture that sometimes two people who disagree, could perhaps both be right at the same time?”
This was too hard to process in one phone conversation. However, the longer I live with this idea, the more I see how true this is.
For one person, a medication may be lifesaving. For another, it might be life-threatening. When dealing with opinions, they are just that. One person thinks a small college is best, the other thinks a large University is the answer. Each has their own situation in which those answers might fit.
Yes, my own life is “all about LynnH.” But any of my neighbors will be all about himself/herself. My students, those who pay me, those who serve me in customer service positions… they all are first taking care of themselves. And this is as it should be.
I remember once getting very upset when my credit union would not process my deposit in the way I wanted them to do it. I spent the rest of the day running around being right. Being angry, indignant, just driving around doing my errands.
In retrospect, I think that I felt powerless and unheard. Many of us have big “hot buttons” about feeling unheard, I ‘m not alone. In this case, I told the teller what I wanted and she was not allowed to do it that way. She did hear me. She couldn’t help me as I wished. I was sure that I was right, and she was wrong.
(Mind you, I don’t even remember what it was that upset me any more, but I really remember feeling that my way was the way it should be done.)
Hours later, the teller was on to other things: she went home, ate dinner, slept. I was still upset about what had happened. And what I now realize is that if that teller had done it any other way (this was policy), she might have lost her job. She could not do her work the way I, a person who has never been a teller, wanted her to do it.
In the end, my own “right answer” is not necessarily the right answer for someone else. But more important: Being right keeps me from connecting with others. The need to be right can lose me friends.
Ever since my father died when I was 14, I live my life with the full awareness of how precious people are. Those I love are the biggest treasure of my life. Nothing is more meaningful to me, than someone with whom I can connect.
Therefore, I can not afford the luxury of being right. Relationship is more important.
(Continued in post below/May 23, for those who want more… I could not find a way to do a “continued” or “more” section in my blogging software, and I have already written enough for one post.)
The images today are: 1) framed drawings from children who love me. Relationship at its purest, perhaps. 2) graffiti from a train in Florida.