So can they?

April 13, 2011

We’ve talked about relationships and what to do when a relationship is not working for us. We’ve talked about the heartbreak we experience when we can’t fix what is causing our relationship to fail. We have talked about how we begin to question our own part in the relationship and how we can change to make things better. We often forget to remember that other people have responsibility to our relationships too, and they need to work with us if the relationship is to be saved.

But can people change? Can we?

We are all on our best behavior when a relationship is brand new. The darker sides of our personalities hide behind the heady thrill of learning about a new friend. We hide parts we like least about ourselves from others, usually without realizing it, for the same reason that we clean up the house before dinner guests arrive. We show off our best china and goblets, our best slipcovers and throw rugs, because friends validate our value as people. Because they validate us, we honor them by giving our best in return.

The only insidious thing going on at the beginning of most relationships is the practice of self-deception. Whip off the slipcovers and pull up the throw rugs and expose the truth. Show your true self to an acquaintance you think is a friend and take a discerning look at them. In true friendships, opening up to each other fosters growth. Sometimes we find true beauty that needs a friend’s coaxing to bring it out from under cover. Sometimes we find other layers that obscure the center of an acquaintance’s personality. Hiding something. Most often we find a little bit of both.

Assume you have removed the slipcovers and exposed multiple layers, but he’s so sweet, he’s so kind, he’s so cute, that you don’t want to let go (of course, this applies to any friend or hope-to-be-more-than-a-friend, male or female). How long will it take for your relationship to expose what lies under the hidden layers? Most people don’t hide the best of themselves under layers of rugs and covers, but some create layers to protect themselves from past hurts. Some people hide their entire being. It can be difficult to have a true friendship with people who are so closed off, but you know that well.

Hidden things can run a gamut from embarrassing moments in a person’s life to a propensity to create mayhem and commit violence. One might think that the worse the secret is, the deeper it will hide. I have not found that to be true. Taking into consideration our differing perspectives, we may not be able to make a definitive scale to easily measure the better or worse of a list of depravities.

I have heard people say that the most recent murderer in the news was “such a nice boy” and a recent rapist is “misunderstood.” When confronted with the truth that murderers and rapists are the most depraved people in existence, they tell me that I “just don’t know” little Kyle or little Jesse and really shouldn’t judge people. Statements like that tell me that I must judge all the more carefully because there are people out there who have been forgiven every heinous act they ever committed by a progressively permissive and tolerant society.

Unlikely as it may seem that you will encounter one of the people whose layers of rugs and covers hide the worst of the worst, it’s possible. It’s more probable that you would encounter someone who is just a big jerk. All types of people expose tiny bits of their secrets long before they are ready (if ever) to let you in on them. Those signs are your gauge. You may forgive transgressions toward you or society if you feel you must—it seems like the fashionable thing to do—but don’t forget. The transgressions will repeat themselves. Pay attention.

Follow one rule (or not, at your own peril) with regard to friends:

If a person does not treat you as you would treat
them, they are not a friend. Respond accordingly.

As for family, aren’t they the people who should
treat you the best? Same rule.

Ah, ah, ah, ah, ah! No buts. See that period up there? It says …they are not a friend. PERIOD. The best you can do if you really wish to maintain a relationship with a person who does not treat you as you would treat them, is to keep it simple. Avoid the hot spots. If you can.

So can they change? No. I believe they cannot. Nor can you. We can change our slipcovers and our china patterns, but things inherent to our being will only hide. It’s a good idea to find someone who is compatible with the things you hide under your slipcovers.

One comment

  1. I amfinally stopping by to read this time (from UBP.) And what you said here makes a lot of sense. Mind if I borrow your “rule” in a post of my own? Can’t wait to read more of your blog. Us old timers need to stick together and share our knowledge. :)

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