Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A Rotten Day

(This was written sometime in the last month. NOT today. Today has been a pretty good day, actually. And by the way, please notice all of my new tags! Yes, you can look up all sorts of stuff on my blog now! AND I have officially begun an author's website. You can find the link over there if you look hard.)

Today was a rotten day. The problem was that I didn’t feel well. Whenever I have some odd thing wrong with my body, I get extremely emotional because I suddenly feel the weight of all the time I’ve spent feeling ill in the past few years and because I am terrified that the old strange sickness is returning, that the progress I believe I’ve made is all a dream . . . etc. etc. I know, I know. Bad habit. Lack of faith. Self-fulfilling prophecy. Ingratitude. Knowing all of this only too well means that in addition to feeling miserable and terrified, I also feel extremely guilty. (“This is just a tiny little thing! You’ve been so much better! You’ll be better soon! So many people are so much worse off! How dare you be depressed by this?”)

So it was a bad day. So I was an emotional nutcase already.

And then someone, a friend that I love dearly, gave me some advice about something that she doesn’t know all the facts about. And since she didn’t really know what she was talking about, her advice didn’t really apply and yet it still hurt to know that she saw me as being in need of such counsel. Of course, being a walking time-bomb, I let it completely devastate me.

Luckily, I didn’t let on. Because I could see then (and, of course, even more clearly now) that she was really trying to help, truly speaking out of love for me.

One of the things that hurts about it, though, is that I realized again how many times I do the same thing to other people. I’m an oldest child, a teacher, a permanent preacher, a know-it-all, a bossy-pants. I try to advise people. It’s got to be so annoying! Of course I do it out of love, out of a desire to help people avoid pain that I had to go through. But that doesn’t matter. Doing it implies that I don’t trust them to find their own way. Doing so implies that I think I know the whole story. Doing so is something I’ve got to quit!

I wonder how many people I have hurt deeply by this behavior. Occasionally someone will tell me I’ve been out of line. This, of course, hurts a lot, but I’ve been grateful for it because it has given me a chance to examine myself, apologize and repent.

However, I have never been able to do the same: to tell someone that they have hurt me deeply with something they’ve said.

I’ve been wondering why that is. Part of it is cowardice. I’m just not very assertive. I shake when there is confrontation. Part of it is that I know how much it hurts me when someone confronts me. I always mean well, and when someone confronts me it is obvious that they didn’t know I meant well, or that it didn’t matter to them that I meant well, or that they felt it was more important to teach me than to forgive me. Again, I’ve been grateful, actually, when people have done so but it has been very painful. I truly don’t want to cause that kind of pain for anyone. But does wanting to avoid that do them a disservice, or is it better to just forgive them, and assume they meant well?

When is it right to tell someone they’ve hurt you, and when is it better to just try to forgive and forget? How do you decide?


nurselynn said...

I'm like you, I avoid confrontation at all costs. No advise from me on this issue. HOWEVER, I just checked out your new website and I think it's glorious, wonderful and exciting!! It looks professional to me. We are so proud of you!!

nurselynn said...

whoops, make that no 'advice' from me.

Angie said...

I rarely end up feeling good about these types of situations. It seems that one or both people end up feeling hurt or awkward, and I hate that.

I struggle with the advice issue. I try not to give unsolicited advice, but sometimes I wonder if I am being unkind in not helping somebody who is struggling in an area where I have some experience that might be helpful.

Angie said...

ps approacing the veil and leading the singing don't open for me. yes I checked already. That's how much I look forward to reading new poems from you).

Darlene said...

Thanks, Angie. I think I fixed them. Let me know if you find other errors. (Everyone should have such a helper!)

jenlinmin said...

One of your greatest strengths is your amazing ability with words.

When I was a teenager and my dad and I needed to communicate difficult things with each other, we exchanged notes instead of talking face to face. Things just seemed so much softer in writing, on both ends.

So, no advice given here :), just a compliment and an anecdote. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

I had to go read other blogs for a few minutes while I mulled this topic over. Here are my thoughts thus far:

If none of us ever shared advice, wouldn't we all be wandering around blindly trying to re-invent the wheel? So if giving advice is a necessary part of the shared mortal experience, I guess the question becomes: what are the best ways to give advice? You could make a pretty good case that nonverbal or by example are always the best ways to share our knowledge, but I could then counter with some obvious exceptions. And if we go to the "What does Jesus do?" tie-breaker, it's clear that what he did and does depended/depends on the specifics of the situation.

Of course, He also has the advantage of always knowing the heart of his audience, and we lack that wisdom. I guess being very very close to the Holy Ghost could tend to prevent our offending others with unwanted advice, but I'm, I suppose, enough of a pessimist to think that even so, misunderstandings are a pretty common part of the mortal journey (but maybe I'm just making excuses for not seeking the Spirit on as minutely a level as I ought.)

I've LONG been annoyed by a prevalent style of advice-giving in our culture that's typified by the condescending tone of, say, women's magazines (particularly parenting ones.) But again, it's not that I don't value the offered advice, I just prefer it be given with a tone of "You may find this useful," rather than "This is the one and only correct answer in your (presumed) situation, and you would be helpless without our guidance."

I like to think that I'm good at letting unwarranted or unhelpful advice roll right off of me, but then again, I can still get a little annoyed remembering the time an aunt explained to me in detail how to cook and eat an artichoke, without ever giving me a chance to say that I already knew everything she was telling me. So maybe how well I let something go depends on how invested my pride is -- in how much their advice-giving reveals their lack of awareness of a skill or competence of mine. (And apparently I take some pride in my artichoke-savvy.)

Being non-confrontational myself, I would tend to vote for smiling, saying something non-committal like "Thanks" and trying to forgive and forget. But I also TRY to remember to preface any advice I give with statements such as, "You might already be doing this," or "Maybe this won't apply in your case," and I also try to listen to their response and stop giving advice if they indicate it's not applicable or desired. But I'm sure I also forget these niceties on a regular basis.

Anonymous said...

I was trying to leave my mistakes be but one part of one sentence is bugging me enough to bother to fix it. It should say:

"maybe I'm just making excuses for not seeking the Spirit on as minute a level as I ought"

or, "maybe I'm making excuses for not keeping as close to the Spirit as I should."