Welcome to Ask April, a no-nonsense advice column focusing on what it is you can do to correct things that need correcting. While we all know much in life is out of our control, and sometimes, our reaction is all we CAN control- we really do have a lot of personal power, thankfully. Our will is just as important as the wills of others around us, and while we need to be considerate, we also need to make sure others are equally considerate of us. It is my hope that when you write in to me, asking advice, that I can help you make a good decision that somehow improves whatever situation you’ve found yourself in. As with anything I share, I recommend people don’t automatically take my word for anything, but include my advice in with the rest of the things that help them make a decision. I wish you well. Read on.
Every other week, I answer a call for advice, and every other week, I share my views on something I observed- I call this Observational Wisdom.
Today’s column is observational wisdom.
Before I begin this article, I’d like to say the portrait I have set as the image for this is an ink drawing a friend did of me recently that is going in an art show we will enter together next month- and my entry is a portrait of her! Her name is Soraya Bryant, and isn’t she the greatest artist ever? She is also a great friend- a real one!
On to the article!
I not only witnessed a couple individuals having a conversation, but I also noted plenty of folks sharing sentiments as to what REAL friends will and will not do more than once this past week. I stayed out of the conversations because of a few reasons. The biggest one being that sometimes, rather than engaging people, I just sit back and watch. It gives me the opportunity to learn about them whereas if I steered the conversation another way, I’d miss out on the chance to see how they tick.
Witnessing their exchanges made me think about human beings and our sense of entitlement. What is it about us that causes us to say things like, “If you REALLY care about me, then you will x,y,and z.” Certain things like “If you cared about me, you would not screw around with my spouse on me” or “If you were my friend, you would not have stolen the cash out of my purse” are fair.
That’s not what I am talking about.
What I am seeing is manipulative behavior from people who view friends as people who grant favors or do as we bid them as opposed to people we share life with. I have identified a few kinds of these I see. Read on.
I’m so abused!!!!!
First case in point- a young woman who involves herself in abusive relationships expects her friends to bail her out every time, and let said abusive beau sleep at their houses. She says her real friends will be there for her when she needs saved time after time after time. She says it is wrong for her friends to write her off because it makes it harder for her to leave said abusive beau of the moment before taking him back again, let alone if sometime in the suture she should elect to migrate to the next abusive beau. She reasons her REAL friends will be there for her no matter what and do whatever it is she wants them to do.
This is not reaching out to friends for help. This is manipulation and pulling people into dangerous situations you do not have a right to pull them into. ONE time, getting unknowingly involved and running like hell the second you realize it’s dangerous is one thing. That is not what this girl was talking about.
I have noticed, people chronically involved in abusive relationships often surround themselves with people who will help them continue their cycles and support them so they may stay with their abusers. They call this being their friend. I don’t see it that way, and the minute I feel somebody is pulling me into this, I sit down and explain they are in an abusive relationship, and I give them information to appropriate counseling or social services agencies that can help. I ended one relationship with somebody who LOVES the drama and NEEDS it, and I grew closer to an abused friend, being supportive once he realized what was going on- and I wrote off his abuser. He ditched her, walked away, and is leading a healthy, normal life now.
Knowing whether somebody wants help to get out or help so they can stay in their cycle is difficult sometimes. We all have a right to decide to enable, and nobody can stop us if we truly feel this is what we must do. Just don’t be manipulated into doing so by “If you are REALLY my friend , then you will…”. It’s not friendship that is being called for, it is support so they can continue. You have a right to say yes, but you also have a right to say no.
You are not doing enough favors for me!!!!!!!
What I also saw was a very righteous conversation where people were listing all the things people FAIL to do for them they feel they owe them.
First off, the world owes us nothing. There are innocent people put to death for crimes they did not commit, babies born addicted to drugs because of their shitty parents, people shot dead when they did no wrong, kids starving, people living in places with poor air quality due to pollution, which is killing them, etc.
Life is not fair sometimes, and I hate that.
But, in the grand scheme of things, if a friend did not run an errand for you, pay for something for you, show up at a certain place at a certain time, etc., and you feel the need to bash them for it, and call them bad friends because they did not give you what you expected- YOU are the shitty friend with unfair expectations and a sense of entitlement.
“I have not forgotten the people who did not do x, y, and z” is a threat. Believe me, the people who were unable to do what you expected see your threats. Sometimes it makes them want to do less for you as opposed to being guilted to running to your side, groveling and begging forgiveness.
Also, let’s say you did something for a friend, and when the time came and you needed the same thing, they did not reciprocate. Is it possible they could not? Is this the ONLY time they could not do for you? Just because you had the capacity in the past to do something does not mean other people have the capacity to do the same thing now. Are you placing unfair conditions on your friends or family members? Do you view them as favor givers, and unworthy of your time and love if they are not doing you enough favors?
“Copy and paste if you are REALLY” my friend!!!!
Social media is awesome for a lot of reasons. Some of us do not hear well via telephone, and chat and posts on walls in social media is a life saver for communicating. But there are times people take it too far and commit the crime of sharing the boo hoo post of something like “ Hit like, and say how we met, and copy and paste if you are REALLY my friend. I will know who my REAL friends are if they will do this for me, and I will be watching. I bet nobody does this for me.”
If you base your relationships on whether somebody follows instructions for an online bs game you are playing, maybe you need to reevaluate your definition of what a friend is. Friends are not people you manipulate for attention online. They are people who can stand your sorry ass and who share life with you. I, for one, have close to 500 people on my Facebook friends list. Most of these people are folks I know through networking and I may have never met them in person. I cannot read 500 Facebook walls every day, and I sure as hell am not pasting something so emo and ridiculous on my page. If you feel like that means I am not worthy of being called your friend, okay then!
How DARE You Offend Me?!?!?!
Expanding on the Social Media topics, I have noticed a lot of people on chat rooms, or what have you online like to complain if somebody else makes a post that somehow offends them. Like many others, I do not care in any shape, size, or form if somebody is offended by something. Perhaps this is because people find me offensive? Who knows? I have noticed one thing that all people who throw a fit when they are offended have in common. They all believe being offended gives them special privilege to censor the people they find offensive. The offended parties all believe they can say or write whatever they want to anybody they please, but nobody is allowed to say or write anything to them that they disagree with.
I have found a happy medium that some might find helpful. I am fairly liberal and belong to non-mainstream groups. My family on my dad’s side, however, are conservative Southern Christians. Our beliefs and philosophies could not differ more. So you know what we do? We agree to disagree, have told one another we respect each other’s beliefs, believe differently from one another, but agree that having a relationship is far more important to us than arguing over who feels they are more right. I keep my mouth shut with them, and vice versa. We do not try to change each other, and we don’t feel judged or disrespected.
And that magical attitude means we all get along.
I have discovered, however, that a lot of people are incapable of this, and let me say very emphatically, I find myself and my dad’s side of the family to be superior people to those whose impulse control is undeveloped in this area. There have been times when, I admit, I have had a little fun with people who are so easy to control that all you need to do is state something they find inflammatory, and they go absolutely bonkers. Recently, though, I have plenty to occupy myself with, so I just look the other way when I detect such a mess of an individual in the vicinity, and I focus my attention on whatever I find to be a better use of my time and energy.
I cannot promise that I won’t toy with somebody someday when I get bored, however, and I am not ashamed of that at all. They just make it way too easy. I have to wonder if certain people ever get anything accomplished, because they seem to be constantly online, falling to pieces, and losing their shit over something a complete stranger says. Does their house ever get cleaned? Do they bathe regularly? Do they have a job? Do they ever leave their parents basement? Have they ever gone on a date? Do they have any friends? Do they ever sleep?
What the “I am soooo abused!” and the “how dare you offend me?” and the “if you are really my friend you will” and the “share this online if you care about me” and the “you are not doing enough favors for me” people all share in common is an unhealthy self-centeredness and a huge sense of entitlement. To an extent, in order to survive, we all need to be a little self-centered and have some pretty high expectations. It’s crucial to understand the fine line between what being healthy and being greedy is. Greed means most or all is for you, and none or precious little is for anybody else.
I remember being told years ago that it is at age seven when a child begins to realize other people have feelings too, and the child adjusts their behavior so as to try and make other people feel good, as opposed to pleasing only themselves. It seems like some people never develop that skill. They live their lives operating under the assumption that the world owes them everything and nobody else is important but them.
It’s fair to say not everybody wants to read every little thing under the sun- that is why online we have delete, block, and unfollow options as well as good old, “Unfriend” if you can’t just ignore somebody because they always aggravate the shit out of you. I have utilized these countless times, and I don’t broadcast it every little time I do. Taking the path of least resistance does not mean we are defeated or proven wrong in these scenarios. It just means that we know when to agree to disagree and focus on the things that are really important like buying more yarn, petting the cat, baking cookies, and visiting with loved ones who can still stand us because we respect them and they respect us.
Which reminds me…I need to go bake some more…