I have a problem with people giving me advice. I know that sounds rather odd, but it's true. But at the same time, I ask people for advice. How do I figure that? I want advice from other people, yet I feel defensive whenever someone gives me what I ask for.
That quandary reminds me of the meme that says, "Be careful what you ask for. You might get it." Maybe that's my issue all along. I don't want advice, yet I need advice. I don't like people giving me advice, yet I feel apprehensive when people give me advice when I ask them. But, isn't that what friends are for? Aren't they supposed to be there for me when I need them. And one thing friends can do better than anyone else -- because they know me better -- is to share with me ideas and advice that can help me.
I know this sounds confusing. And it is! But then, isn't life a bit confusing? Why do people drive the way they do? Why did that person pick that parking spot when they passed a better and larger one? How can people listen to "that kind" of music? Don't they know how terrible it is? And why does "she" wear that outfit? Doesn't she know it makes her look fat?
Perhaps you've had these thoughts as well. I hope so. I'd hate the be the only one who ever had those kinds of thoughts. That would make me feel ... Oh, wait. I think I've hit a wall here.
Do people have the power to make me feel anything? Most people would immediately answer "YES!" But, I'm not so sure about that.
Many times over the past twenty-five years, I said to my students in my speech communication classes that either you are a person who is in control of your own emotions, thoughts, and health, or you're a person who is out of control. If that is true, then I should be in control of how I feel. If I let someone "get to me," then am I an out of control person? And this makes me even more confused than ever.
I am in control of myself. But, there are some people in this world who are able to cause in me some positive and even negative emotions. Those people and I have a special relationship. I care for them. I like them. And many I even love very much. When they say something to me that seems to intend to hurt, I feel hurt; not because they can cause me pain, but because I care enough about them and our relationship to feel a deep disappointment based on our relationship.
And I think that often times we confuse our emotions. We think people make us mad, or make us sad, or even make us happy. But in reality, the emotions we feel are positive or negative. The positive comes because of the good feelings we have when we are with that person or we think about that person. The negative comes when we are profoundly disappointed in their words or actions toward us (or should I say "me"?). And it seems to me that the reaction is not an emotional scar but more of a painful bruise.
I'm not a psychiatrist. I'm not a psychologist. I'm not even a "pop" psychologist (you know, make-believe?). But what I am is a student of communication: both the sending and receiving of messages between people. And I know that words are closely tied to our own personal experiences. And it is those experiences we draw upon when we decide just how to respond or to initiate conversation.
Yes, I am in control of my own emotions. But, my experiences inform and often orient me to a sort of sensitivity in particular types of incidents based on our past. When I was a small boy, other kids in the neighborhood would call me "Herbert Sherbet." I took that as an insult. But, as I matured more, I decided that what they may have intended was not in my knowledge base. They never told me they were trying insult me. Oh, and I never asked. So, I cannot say truthfully that they intended to insult me.
So, I decided that since sherbet is a sweet type of frozen desert, then they must have been calling me "sweet." I started thinking that people were actually complimenting me. In other words, I was able to think through my original interpretation of a past experience and reword my thoughts and re-orient my thinking. And I turned what once was a painful memory into a positive experience.
In my adult life, I've been labeled many different things. But, I've been able to turn the events from a initial negative reaction to a more positive response thus diffusing the possibility of a debilitating psychological wound. I'm far less concerned with what other people think of me and more concerned with being who I am all of the time.
Once in a classroom setting, a young man asked me if I hated a certain group of people. I thought for a moment perhaps giving him the impression that he had stumped me. Then I said, "I find it difficult to truly hate humans. I find that I dislike things they do. I may even have serious disagreements on particular issues. But, hate? I don't know how I can."
And I believe that the answer I gave is who I am. I don't want hate inside me. If I hate someone, the hate is inside me. It hurts me, not the person I hate. Even if I tell them I hate them, they may choose to ignore me and dismiss me as a "kook". The only way I can avoid hate is to let other people be who they are and ask that other people accept me for who I am. My hate only hurts me. And another person's hate only hurts that person.
I guess I've decided that I don't have time to hurt inside. I want to enjoy my life with my family and friends. So, I've come to the conclusion that I'll try to be more like the God I serve and simply love other people as He has loved me--even when I wasn't so lovable. If someone else wants to hate me, I'll let them expend all the energy they want on that hate. Their hate doesn't bother me. I guess I don't care enough worry about it. At least it's something to ponder.
Herb Sennett writes about life and how to enjoy it more.
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