Probably the most useful instruction I've gotten in recent years as a traditionally employed human being who deals with the public is this: "Everybody lies." Especially when confronted, no matter how gently, with a mistake they've made, no matter how small, most people's first instinct is to deny it. When pressed, when confronted with incontrovertible evidence to the contrary, some people will then relent and wonder how they could have been so stupid. Yes, of course, I guess I did keep that library book an extra day; Oh my God, I did bounce that check, how thoughtless of me. And some will admit fault while still keeping the flags of denial at half mast: "Well, yes, I was wrong, but here's why I couldn't get back to the library/bank/store within 30 days to return this dress I'm going to pretend I never wore . . ." I seem to have an inexhaustible interest in dealing with people in this state, because I do it, too, and I like to watch the shift happen. I like to see it slowly dawn on people's faces that the thing they were absolutely sure of ten seconds ago was completely wrong. I watch it with total compassion because I know how vulnerable it feels to let down your guard and find the truth of a situation in front of another human being. What I used to like about being that witness was the smugness of being right, but now that I'm older I like being that witness because I love being able to refine my ability to be as non-judgmental as I can when she shift from denial to humility happens, no matter which side I'm on. One of us was brave enough to confront the other with a mistake, the other found the strength to hear it, and we found the truth together, oh my God! We did it! And all it cost was my bank's processing fee and a little bit of pride!
I read a great quote the other day in The New Yorker, purportedly from the Torah: "We don't see things as they are, we see things as we are."
Or, (to paraphrase): A web site is also a mirror: if an ass peers into it, you can't expect an apostle to look out.
The Internet has really gotten me down lately, watching some people try to talk about their lives in an interesting way and then watching other people come along and pick them apart like they're doing the world a service for treating someone like shit. It makes me feel terrible. I happened to find a post written by someone (person A) I'd met last year and who seemed nice enough, and this post contained terrible thoughts about someone I consider a friend (person B). Person A's utter lack of self-awareness really troubled me, and I didn't know how to process her shrieking about person B. I unfriended A on Facebook, which is pretty much the weakest way to protest anything. When I woke up at 1:00 a.m. with a headache, I thought about it some more and then that still, small voice inside me woke up and said, Let's throw some love at the problem.
Years ago I read about a study focused on schoolchildren and expressing anger. It turned out that encouraging child A to voice his anger at child B (who'd been instructed to do something bothersome) actually amplified child A's aggression, and the children's relationship with each other rarely recovered. Child B could never un-hear the mean things child A had said to him. But the children who were encouraged to express themselves more calmly toward the bothersome classmate, or to wait until the classmate stopped doing the bothersome thing, were able to preserve their relationships or even go on to become friends.
I'm looking for a way to wind this up without boring yet another reader to death.
1. Everybody lies, but 2. Kindness leads to 3. Honesty and 4. True friendship, 5. Kumbaya.
Here are some birthday outtakes of Jackson and me resting up after our walk downtown to the candy store last week.
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