We think we know the ones we love, and though we should not be surprised to find that we don’t, it is heartbreak nonetheless. It is the hardest kind of knowledge, not only about another but about ourselves. To see our lives as fiction we have written and believed.
That’s the opening of the new novel The Story of a Marriage, as found in this review.
Admitting to ourselves that we were terribly, terribly wrong about something is never easy. This is particularly difficult when it involves an errant character judgment. The quote above refers to love. It is also true about friendship. When, two years into a friendship, I discover I’ve dramatically mis-understood or mis-judged some aspect of a person’s character (say the person is a compulsive liar and I just missed it) I am less angry at the friend and more angry at myself for failing to see it. And it makes me less certain in my other reads of people. If I was so wrong about Bob, could I also be missing something in Joe?
Since I’m a people person, honing my ability to size people up — my ability to get a sense for someone’s value system, ethical sense, etc — is an on-going challenge.
8 comments on “Quote of the Day”
Very interesting point because it differentiates between learning more about us from learning more about someone else.
Even for those, who do not call themselves “people person”, life is an ongoing challenge of accurate judgments of people to be made.
That said, one of the things we all learn along the way is forgiveness of things that seem outstandingly bad when cited in isolation, such as the compulsive liar bit you mention. If they
I have an extremely smart friend, who made some personal life choices that make her life very frustrating. She is well-educated and had a stonking career before choosing to become a full-time, somewhat alpha mother. She now feels she needs to tell me – and others who may care to listen – about why her life is so rich because of her choices. There are also tall tales of expensive lifestyle things and so on which I know do not exist. I have known her a very long time (double digit years).
I am not justifying her compulsive lying – esp having known her long since I know when she is lying – but lying to make her life sound more glamorous than it is makes her feel better on a day to day basis. It does not hurt me although I am concerned her lies may be as transparent to others as they are to me.
She is however a great intellectual foil and her intellectual honesty more than compensates for her social lying in my view.
That said, if I were to acquire new friends, and find them lying right away, it may be harder to digest. Maybe because their redeeming qualities are yet to be found?
Matching value systems is absolutely important but there are shades of grey there too. For instance, I have always found it hard to be “friends” with rabidly religious people who take it upon themselves to cite endlessly some parable or other or worse, to proselytise. But I am happy to be friends with people with a different political leaning from mine.
Love and friendship, alas, require much more forgiving than we think we are capable of. It helps to remember that from someone else’s point of view, we may not be ideal friends either.
I had a very dramatic, hurtful experience with this. I was badly stung by someone I had worked with in multiple companies, someone I had gone on holiday with to foreign countries, someone I had introduced to the future mother of his children, someone I had opened up to and shown as much of the real me as I have shown anyone. It was crushing, and made me re-evaluate everyone in my orbit in a rather intense way.
But I learned huge lessons from the experience, such as: 1) What narcissistic personality disorder is, 2) Oh my gosh, both of my parents are extreme narcissists too, 3) I engage these people easily for very good reasons, and 4) I can stop engaging them now that I know I’m doing it. It is easily one of the most important learning experiences I have lived through to date, and I’m so grateful for it now. God knows how many similar people I have since repelled now that I know how to spot them and how to avoid falling prey to them.
Pain like this really is the touchstone of learning and personal growth.
Being horribly wrong about people is so derailing. To add insult to injury, your flawed judgment reflects only on your reputation, and later, you’re hyper-aware of new relationships, even when they are
rewarding/beneficial. If x friend surprisingly was(insert secret problem here: an emotionally-destructive acquaintance or a compulsive narcissist or a sketchy drug baron), can you say that y friend won’t be?
People unconsciously advertise their true motives in body language and in their everyday speech.
Fortunately, you don’t have to be Sigmund Freud to read the transparent symbolism in which they reveal their inner selves– it’s learnable.
So intelligent people profit from experience and learn to recognize patterns of behavior and what they signify, but continual observation of the human race’s idiocy will drive them to become either cynics or comics.;-)
I’ve a different take on this. I firmly believe in the principle of karma – a person’s bad deeds will come back to them (no matter what, they cannot run away from it). I am a very trusting person but the moment I come across the truth, that person immediately loses my trust and will probably never earn it back. I just cut such people off my life and leave them to their own devices.
However, experience has taught me that more often than not, it is a matter of perspective. We’re all humans and prone to make mistakes. I’ve learnt to be compassionate and be forgiving of many types of mistakes. The only kinds that I’ll never forgive are the ones that’re done through malice or to specifically hurt someone or done despite knowing how much it’ll hurt the victim. I totally cut myself off such people, no matter who they’re.
Ha, here’s where I score. I don’t trust myself too much to carry on with my early judgments on others. I leave a wide margin of error and put the character *under observation* for quite a while.
My rescue rate is 5% 🙂
Karma is a bitch 🙂 I think that pretty much everyone around me, including myself has NPD. The way I was brought up as well as my private school schooling has definitely made me somewhat narcissistic. I realized this some years ago and have since tried to balance it out, but it is a tough process. For this reason I tend to be a little too honest (i.e. blunt and open) when talking to people. Whatever.
Years ago, when someone showed me a “secret” side that they didn’t share with others, I felt we had a privileged, intimate connection, and let my guard drop. Now, I know that if someone’s pulling a Jekyll & Hyde act of sorts, it’s not a privilege at all to be in their confidence.
I had starred this post in Google Reader to read later and just came across it tonight while catching up. (Long time, I know!) I immediately had to run out to Barnes & Nobile and pick up the book. I’m looking forward to devouring it tonight.