A couple of weeks ago I was talking with a friend who was debating whether to add a snarky comment to someone’s Facebook wall. He had gone to school with this guy years before, but hadn’t seen him since graduation. My friend decided to take the kinder route, reminding himself (and me) that he was probably expressing disdain for a person who “hadn’t existed” for 20 years.
I thought this was a pretty profound concept. How many times do we interact with people based on who they used to be? How often do we put aside expectations established years ago and see people as they really are? I know that I’m not the same person I was five years ago, or ten. And 20 years seems like a lifetime ago. Are you the same person? Why expect that anyone else would be the same?
George Bernard Shaw said, “The only man who behaves sensibly is my tailor; he takes my measurements anew every time he sees me while all the rest go on with their old measurements and expect me to fit them.”
I wonder how much different the world would be if we were ALL sensible tailors? What do you think? Do your relationships change as people change, or do you find that you expect people to be the same? How do you accommodate changes in your friendships?
I was one of the very, very uncool people in high school. Now that we’re all reconnecting via the facebooks, I’ve run into a LOT of this. And I’m on the receiving end of it. High school acquaintances have reconnected with me, only to delight in giving me jabs about things that I said or did 20 years ago. So I can give you “observations from the other side” –
– if you treat me like the person I was then, you’re missing out on who I am now.
– chances are, if you treat me this way now, you weren’t kind to me back then either, and you probably missed out on who I was back then as well.
– I’m trying to remember that YOU aren’t who you were 20 years ago either, but you’re making that pretty difficult.
I’m far more interested in who any of us is in THIS moment and the journey we are on. I realize this is comprised of our pasts and our influences, of course. But to landlock somebody and, by way of interaction, remind them of who they were in the past really indicates to me that there’s something we ourselves have an issue with, and we’re really the ones who are stuck in that issue and need to look at it 🙂 It’s an opportunity, if we are aware enough.
Thank you for writing this, Emily.
I would like to say that this is easy for me to do, but I think I’m as guilty as anyone. What I find is that it’s easier for me to label someone than it is to look at them with fresh eyes every time. And it’s easier holding grudges than forgiving people or realizing we’ve all moved on.
A friend of mine was estranged from her son for years. She tried many times to get him to come home for Christmas, birthdays, even just for dinner, but he wouldn’t come. At one point in our conversations, she told me what she really wanted was for him to apologize for what he’d put her through. I realized that those invitations were not to see how he’s doing now, but to resolve old issues. I think he probably knew that. I think he knew there was no escaping what he had done and who he had been, even if he wasn’t still that person, because she was going to see him that way.
I think you’re right, it’s especially hard to let go of those old selves when we feel like there are unresolved issues. Being able to let go of all of it, even if it means not “getting even” or getting that apology, doesn’t feel right sometimes. How to get past that? It’s interesting to think about!