Continuing a conversation
As the conversation continues in this entry about survivor’s struggle with friendship, I’m starting to notice a difficult trend when it comes to healing, and that is deciding what your motivation is. It’s a difficult question to answer, and something worth monitoring not just with your path to healing from abuse, but really in any area of self-improvement through out your life.
For example, one of my goals over recent months has been to learn from my wife when it comes to interacting with people. My wife, for as long as I have known her, has always impressed me with her ability to be thoughtful and generous when it comes to the people around her. Whether it’s going out of her way to show appreciation, or remembering a conversation she had with someone about a topic and being able to share information with that person weeks, or even month, later relevant to the conversation, or the well-timed small gift, there are countless ways in which she inspires me to be more thoughtful and giving to the people I consider my friends. That’s a worthwhile goal, but it’s also very important that I be very careful that my desire to be this kind of person is motivated by a desire to improve myself as opposed to a desire to have people like me better.
For certain, if I were to succeed in being more thoughtful, there’s a good chance that people will like me better, but that is never a certainty, and it’s a poor motivator for one simple reason. That reason being, the fact that while I can work as hard as I can on improving myself, how other people react to me is completely beyond my control. It is impossible to make a goal out of something you can’t control. If my goal is to improve myself in an area that I feel deficient at, then my success at reaching that goal is a simple measurement. Have I succeeded in doing more thoughtful acts than I would have normally done before? If the answer is yes, then I have had success. On the other hand, if my goal is to make more people like me, defining success gets a little more difficult, doesn’t it? Even if I become a more thoughtful friend, there’s always the possibility that some of my current friends won’t like the change, or that some people will be suspicious of someone doing nice things for them, and I may very well end up with fewer friends in the short term, through no fault of my own!
Again, when it comes to relationships of any kind, you can only be responsible for your part of the relationship. How other people react to you is beyond your control. When you share the details of your abuse, and a good friend simply goes silent on the whole issue, it may very well be because they simply don’t have the background or the exposure to comprehend how to talk about it, and that’s not your fault. How they react is their responsibility, not yours.