The easiest thing to do perhaps is to live someone else’s life for them.
Someone says “I’m tired” You say right back “You shouldn’t be staying out so late”
Someone tells you their blood pressure is high, you immediately tell them to reduce the salt in their food, eat papaya and drink 3 litres of water a day!
Someone laments that their child is a fussy eater or acts up and you jump in with your parenting tips!
And you don’t stop to think that you too get tired, you can have health issues and maybe your child too can defy what you say!
And on and on it goes- there is no dearth of suggestions, instructions and experiences that come your way for just about anything you say.
And then there are those who have no time for any lament or angst you may have for a situation you find yourself in- they will insist you need to suck it up, because after all you are the architect of your life and if something happens that you don’t like….well, it’s all your fault!!! Suck it up!!
And maybe there lives are perfect- but somehow I doubt that is always true!
Surely somewhere between these two extremes lies the middle ground. Sometimes all you are looking for is a sympathetic ear or a sounding board. Sometimes you need to validate ideas and sometimes you just want to be able to vent and tell someone your current state is shit and no judgements thank you!
Sometime back, a friend described an episode that somewhat shook her. She met a group of friends for lunch and after a pretty nice afternoon, one of the ladies in the group revealed that her marriage was on the rocks. Sordid details not necessary here, but after a painful recounting of her situation, she was bombarded with suggestions.
Move out, take him to the cleaners, don’t ever let him see the children, you should never have let him open his own bank accounts, his mother has too much influence over him, the parties you guys have just asking for trouble….and on and on they went.
When the lady looked tearfully confused, one “friend” impatiently remarked “I cannot believe that you have put up with this for so long, I would have walked out on day 1!”
Really? Do we really know what we would do in a situation before it happens to us?
Do we really think we will remember all the rational things we tell ourselves at a time of great stress?
And do we really think that we WILL be unemotional, logical and clinical in our responses to extremely stressful, emotional and unexpected situations?
The friend who recounted this was troubled, on reflection she felt she had not been understanding enough and jumped in to offer solutions, when perhaps all the person may have wanted was a safe space to articulate what troubled her…..
Maybe all she wanted was a silent and comforting envelope….
And maybe, just maybe….most of us should contain ourselves until we have walked a few steps in another’s shoes…just maybe!