Human Frailty

I had an epiphany this morning as I grumpily drove to work: My biggest problem in life is that I’m an optimist.

Wait, WHAT???

Anyone who knows me knows that I am anything but Sunshine, Lollipops, and Rainbows! Not that I behave like an incorrigible pessimist – I try to be positive, but I’m not the “peppy” type. Simply put, I have high standards for myself and I hold others to the same standards. I give my best and I expect others to do the same. In this sense, I am an optimist. But this is a sure track to rampant disappointment.

Like Tracy Lord in “The Philadelphia Story,” I have little or no regard for human frailty. This is not to say that I am incapable of feeling empathy or understanding another’s viewpoint or position; often, I simply argue that if I must follow a certain rule or standard, there’s no reason why someone else shouldn’t. Perhaps it’s a case of the Golden Rule gone wrong. You know: “All things, therefore, that ​you want men to do to ​you, ​you also must likewise do to them.” (Matthew 7:12) I do my part and naively expect the same treatment in return.

Time to wake up to the cold, hard facts. While there may be some people out there who appreciate my efforts to treat them as I would like to be treated, the majority do not really care. I continue to hold myself to higher standards and at best am disappointed – at worst, crushed – by the failure of others to reciprocate. So what should I do?? Stoop to the level of those who hurt me, or take the high road – that is, hold myself to higher standards while accepting the fact that many people I encounter will not hold to those standards?? It would appear that the high road, while more difficult initially, will be easier on my peace of mind in the long run. And maybe, just maybe, it will eventually make me a better person.

“You’ll never be a first class human being or a first class woman until you’ve learned to have some regard for human frailty.” – C. K. Dexter Haven, The Philadelphia Story

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“The Non-Friend”

In the course of living life, we forge friendships. Some of these friendships last a lifetime, changing and maturing with us. Some follow a cyclical pattern of closeness and drifting apart. Some fade into mere acquaintanceship. Some sadly wither into a state we shall dub “the non-friend.”

“The non-friend” is someone with whom you once shared a close relationship, but for any number of reasons, the relationship has deteriorated into indifference, at best – at worst, an almost hostile state. Yet, both parties remain a part of the same social circle and therefore are often thrown together despite the dissolution of the relationship. Perhaps the break occurred because the relationship was all take and no give on one side. Perhaps both personalities changed drastically – or just one changed. Perhaps your patience ran out. Perhaps you discovered that your “friend” values possessions or popularity over the feelings of others, including yourself. Perhaps you found that your principles and those of your “friend” varied too widely to be reconcilable. Perhaps you found a cruel streak in their personality that you simply could not live with. Perhaps they simply stopped talking and/or caring and refused to explain why.

This state of affairs is quite painful and often embarrassing, as others who knew of your relationship ask why you aren’t close anymore. If you’ve invested much time and emotion in the relationship, you may experience a sense of loss. Maybe you took on what I call the “savior” role – being a problem-solver, therapist and life coach for your friend, only to find that they were using you. Losing the friendship may cause you to feel that you have failed.

When the dust settles, however, you may find that no longer expending your energies on a one-sided relationship is to your benefit. You may begin to seek and/or strengthen healthy relationships with more considerate people who truly value you for who you are and who exert a positive influence in your life. You may discover the meaning of a truly equal, give-and-take relationship. You may learn to value yourself more as a result.

But what about your “friend” – now “the non-friend?” As they follow their chosen path without you and you perhaps take the high road, your paths may cross. How these interactions flow may depend heavily on how you choose to behave toward your one-time friend – “the non-friend.” If you continue to take the high road, showing kindness regardless of the other person’s behavior, you will not only keep from deepening the rift, you will have something to be proud of – self-respect. If you choose to view the entire experience as a lesson, you will likely move on in your life with more wisdom and less angst.

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Have you had an experience like this? Please share your thoughts!