Is what you do who you are?

How many times have you called your­self and oth­ers pathetic, stu­pid? “Not good enough” are the three words that would cover all the things that are “wrong” with you and oth­ers. Maybe you have noticed that this often func­tions as a self-fulfilling prophecy. After repeat­ing to your­self that you are stu­pid, you really start doing more and more stu­pid things. Why? Because you are “stu­pid”, of course! What else can you do? That’s how things are. Only stu­pid peo­ple do stu­pid things. Right? That’s who you are, you become con­vinced. When you think that some­one is __________ (fill in the blank) you relate to him/her as who she/he “is”, in appro­pri­ate fashion.

This prac­tice becomes even more promi­nent with your (ex)partner when your rela­tion­ship is not work­ing out the way you’d want it to work.

In the case of the rela­tion­ship brake up, in order to alle­vi­ate our suf­fer­ing we engage in a blame game, e.g. name-calling. It makes no dif­fer­ence whom we blame for the sit­u­a­tion as long as it is “some­one.” This, of course, includes our very selves. We first blame oth­ers, our part­ner and all the peo­ple he/she knows, and our friends and fam­ily for all sorts of dif­fer­ent rea­sons, from not warn­ing us to not agree­ing with our side of the story.  In order to absolve our­selves from any respon­si­bil­ity of a wrong judg­ment the com­plaint is not only focused on what peo­ple did, but who they ARE (thus name-calling), because of their deeds or the lack of. Of course, he lied to me, he IS a liar. Now, here lies the most dan­ger­ous and far-reaching mis­take. Peo­ple do all sorts of things, but that’s not nec­es­sar­ily who they are. If you lie once, are you a liar? If you fall in love with some­one else, are you a cheat, not faith­ful etc.? If you say some­thing rude do you become a rude per­son for­ever and exclu­sively. If you do a stu­pid thing it does not mean that you ARE stu­pid. You just did a stu­pid thing, and … by whose judg­ment your deed was stu­pid? Many “stu­pid” things we do turn out not to be so stu­pid after all. If some­one does not love you any more it does not mean that you are not lov­able, or not good enough as a person.

Although we judge peo­ple by their behav­ior, do not for­get that we judge our­selves by our inten­tions, and so do they. Step­ping into another person’s shoes and find­ing out what his/her inten­tions are is an act of grace, love and com­pas­sion. Also, you must under­stand that other peo­ple judge you by your behav­ior and that they are not obliged to know what your inten­tions are. They may not be inter­ested in your inten­tions. Your behav­ior speaks for itself. You have no right to expect peo­ple to be lov­ing, gra­cious and com­pas­sion­ate. You can­not make them wrong for it. All that has noth­ing to do with you, any­way. You need to be respon­si­ble for your own behav­ior and how you come across for oth­ers. At the same time it does not mean that you should asso­ciate at any cost with peo­ple who exhibit per­son­al­ity dis­or­ders in their habit­ual behav­ior. Ego­cen­tric, obsessive-compulsive, depres­sive, passive-aggressive, socio­pathic, bor­der­line, nar­cis­sis­tic, histri­onic etc. are just some exam­ples of the char­ac­ters to be avoided, not to men­tion abusers and addicts.

In the case of the well-balanced men­tally healthy peo­ple, the maxim that you should “treat oth­ers the way you want to be treated” is not very help­ful. There are too many oppor­tu­ni­ties to screw up. The bet­ter one would be

“Treat oth­ers the way they want to be treated”

To do this requires a large dose of the uncon­di­tional love and trust. (Accept the fact that not every­one who is offi­cially an adult will act as one all the time.) Peo­ple do make mis­takes, but mis­takes are part of life. The prob­lem is that we con­sider mis­takes to be “bad.” Mis­takes are just that, mis­takes, and an error in judg­ment. No one has ever escaped from mak­ing mis­takes. Why we are then, so harsh in blam­ing oth­ers (and our­selves) for mak­ing mis­takes. Being more for­giv­ing of oth­ers and our own actions is a cer­tain road to hap­pi­ness and self-growth.



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