Be kind. It’s not your fight.
Many of you have seen my Sue Talk, presented last year in San Diego, California and I’ve been asked if the cast of characters I describe in my message are real. Yes, they are <insert big sigh.> But they were just a subset of the opinions and advice I encountered in those confusing, tumultuous days. You know what they say about opinions … and other things … everyone has one. And whether you want to hear it or not, some folks just can’t refrain from giving you a piece of their mind and, frequently, it isn’t helpful. In fact, being as their mind appeared to be so small and limited, they probably couldn’t spare that little piece anyway.
So, who were these folks … I gave them pseudonyms in my speech to protect the innocent, even though most of them were far from it. The Victimizer was first to appear: these people wanted to protect me – smother me – continuously remind me how unfair the situation was and how I was doomed to a life of scarcity and loneliness. No matter how low I was feeling, these “friends” could bring me down even more; their idea of a good time was sitting around ex-bashing and drinking in a misguided effort to convince me I was utterly helpless without their assistance.
Then there was The Accuser: in their opinion, I was the root cause of all that could go wrong. I had not lived my life according to their standards so I deserved everything that was happening; in fact, I’d had it coming to me for a long time. In their little view of the world my life was over – where I was, was exactly where I deserved to be and I should just suck it up. If I had the misfortune of spending any time with an Accuser, I was fair game for the next Victimizer who came along!
Now, this was different – The Tempter! These party people were the exact opposite of the Accusers – in their opinion I had been cooped up forever and deserved nothing less than a night on the town, reputation be damned! And they were tempting – they constantly goaded me about following the rules and being good and insinuated that it hadn’t worked out all that well.
There were others, too, including The Rationalizer who constantly downplayed the situation by comparing it to crimes of epic proportions. Or The Ostricher (ok, I made that word up but I have to keep with the format) who urged me to look the other way and pretend it didn’t happen. Again, the advice and opinions of these folks was neither wanted nor helpful.
Do you want to know who was helpful? Those who didn’t offer any advice. Those friends and colleagues who came alongside and reminded me who I was. Encouraged me to get up and try again. Who seemed to be in the right place at the right time with a kind word, an invitation to lunch or just to listen. They were those who said the things I didn’t want to hear at the time, but knew exactly what I needed and, conversely, knew when to back off and wait it out. I am forever grateful to those folks and, to this day, they know who they are.
We all know someone who is in the fight of their life whether it’s relationships, career challenges or illness. Think about what helped when you were there – and what didn’t. Be kind. Resist the urge to point out their flaws and direct their path. It’s not your fight – but you can fight alongside them.