Be it a time of boom, or bust, know who to trust. A distinct advantage of falling down is seeing who reaches out to offer a hand, and who runs for the hills. This isn’t a new or breakthrough notion, it is a well substantiated element of the human experience.
There are so many classic, religious, folk and urban tales of the frailty of friendships and the boundlessness of cowardly self-preservation. Judas betraying Jesus with a kiss, and Simon Peter denying him when questioned by the crowd. This poor peaceful Bohemian carpenter’s son apparently knew what was coming but still did it rough when trusted friends threw him well under the bus and into the hands of a mob.
Fiction and non-fiction brims with heartbreak and betrayal. Reading 1984 as a teenager, my gut told me as soon as Julia entered the story not to trust her. I did, however, have faith in O’Brien for a few chapters, making that betrayal of the rivetingly relatable Winston sting so much more.
I could exhaust thousands of words recounting stories of misplaced trust and catastrophic consequences. These stories exist because humans have done this shit to each other since before our ancestors came down from the trees.
Power struggles, pecking orders and plot twists exist even in the animal kingdom, and there’s precious little anyone can do to protect themselves from damage as they journey through their own narrative. It remains, however, your narrative, you can be the hero, the victor, the villain or trap yourself in a vain brain. It’s your story, even when you’re thrown challenges you were not expecting, the pen is in your hand and the pages after pain are just as blank as those after your gain.
But what about the other side of wretched duplicities and misplaced trusts? What about the angels and advocates soldiering on in silence to help others, with little or no agenda other than a desire to live the kind of virtues they value as a result of their own journey or suffering? What about the good guys? What about Severus Snape, Oscar Schindler, Clara Barton, Edith Cavell, and Mary Magdalen? All far from perfect, and they did perfectly brave and beautiful things for others.
What breeds steadfastness, courage and integrity in the face of adversity for some, and turns others into self-righteous shitheads who convince themselves their cowardliness is the best thing for everyone?
Well. I have no fucking idea.
Here’s what I do know though, we are all many things to many people throughout our lives. We are all going to be tested and torn too many times to count in our time here. Seems quite clear to me that no matter how authentic or honest anyone’s intent, they’ll pick the wrong battle or back the wrong horse and feel like a pile of shit sometimes, after the dust settles. There are also people who are just self-serving assholes, and think nothing of selling anyone up the river on the mercenary meanderings on the Machiavellian road toward their ill-imagined mansion of selfishness. It is not your fault if people are assholes. You are not a victim if you give with both hands and hope for the best in people. But, for your own sake, trust but verify.
Before I had children, I’d stay out with friends in San Francisco and we’d engage with the homeless people we’d meet. They all had a story, they all had their demons, and in most cases, they were highly intelligent and caring people with their own tales of flight and folly and flying too close to the sun. The thing that struck me back then (and still makes me pensive today) is that I can’t recall any of them blaming others for their choices. They all had stories of bad decisions, abhorrent behavior, betrayals and beloved and trusted family and friends finding their faults too profound to penetrate. In each story I was told, the teller laid blame in their own hands and by my reckoning lived an unfathomable life as a result of too many wobbles.
The reason I found that so interesting is I’ve certainly noticed that people who have not ended up quite so cleanly and clearly on the bottom of the heap of the physical human condition so often do not find fault in their own choices. I suppose there’s some sort of social construct that could explain this phenomenon, or maybe my control group or survey size is not large enough to draw any useful conclusions, but I do still find many healthy, sheltered, miserable and miserly people complaining. Yet the meekest among us often display grace, humility and, sadly, a lot of personal pain and deeply entrenched shame.
Now, I am not saying that any of us needs to get ourselves chucked out on the street to be humbled or decent, I am merely sharing small part of my vast and varied experience as I see it so far.
So, what am I trying to say here? Well, maybe just that shit will happen. Shit IS happening. We are bombarded with bad news and fear mongering metrics across so many channels. Our resources are starting to seem scarce, and some people are choosing kindness and community to combat what seems to so many of us as an inevitable denouement since the industrial revolution.
Some people are squirreling and shrinking into their own corner and actively choosing blame, fear, greed, and self-preservation to prepare for whatever comes next. Yet through all of this there are the quirky and kind hearted, often on the fringes of society, sticking up for others and sharing whatever they can afford.
As you journey through this week and the next and all the days that are ahead of you, I do not think you’ll be able to escape being seen as a villain, a victor, a victim or maybe just vain. You are the person you will have to answer to when tough choices are placed in your lap. You are the person who will collect the karma you consign. No matter what you do, no matter how hard you battle with your own conscience or grapple to weigh up your next move, sometimes you will just get kicked square in the guts, left reeling with the feeling that no good deed goes unpunished. Unless you’re a bona fide prick, narcissist or sociopath. Those shitheads feel no pain and it’s always about them. If you are like the vast majority of the rest of humanity, you will do good, you will do bad. You will be kind, you will be cruel. You will make poor decisions and you will have ample opportunity to make things as right as you can, by facing facts and firmly finding your own truth. If you think that sounds trite, fuck it, I am not here to win friends. Enough people have recently decided they’re duly sick of my shit and we’ve parted ways for the overall benefit of all parties.
But for every dazed and disillusioned fair-weather friend, there’s been an angel to replace them. You probably already know as you read this that there are people around you who serve themselves and take with both hands. Listen to that little voice and be cautious with your heart, your time and resources when that slug in your stomach squirms in their company. That instinct is given to us for a reason. Let go, forgive, move on. Look for the best in people but learn when you are shown the worst. And when you find your soulmates, your cheerleaders, your champions and your tribe, Love them, respect them. But for goodness sake do not do what I have done so many times and test them to breaking point, because of your own fears and insecurities. Give people a chance unless that slug tells you not to, and cherish those who have proved themselves and give them the benefit of the doubt.
Good luck out there today and thank you for reading.