I got a poison pen letter the other day. Yes, an adult I barely know, took the time to write out a nasty letter full of what he thinks I was implying when I was speaking in front of my own family in my own home. He was sure it was all about him.
He was not in attendance of the event. I am not even sure how or why he secured a copy of an email not sent to him, outlining for others who had been unable to attend, the events of a very special day, that everyone in attendance enjoyed with love and compassion. He had to type the letter he sent, print it, put it in an envelope, stamp it, take it to the mailbox . . .all of those things took time. Nothing in him suggested he was about to make a complete ass of himself and that perhaps he might reconsider.
It never ceases to amaze me that, at my age, there are so many people who clearly had all their growth stunted in Jr. High. But there are still people who are so insecure in themselves, so miserable in their own lives, that they work at being assholes like it is a gift.
I actually feel embarrassed for him.
Sometimes when people attack us, it is so evident that the accusations they hurl are those they themselves are guilty of. I read the letter and felt sad for him, that this is what seemed like a good idea to him. It reminds me of what is important in life and how easy it is to take those little steps that lead us away from enjoying life to the fullest. It does not take many of those steps to suddenly find ourselves miserable and alone.
Please, before you ever send out a letter like this to someone, no matter how justified you feel, please consider:
1. Always be willing to consider that you might be wrong. Did you misinterpret something? Are you reading into words that were never said because of your own insecurities? Do you even know this person well enough to speak to what they might have been implying?
2. Does this incident even concern you? Should you be expressing anything about the event to this person?
3. Implying is an interesting word. Implication is not the same thing as stating the facts. It is an assumption about what we think is not being said, but meant. Think about that. There is a whole lot of you in there that can get it wrong and be miles away from what was actually “not said.”
4. What is your intended outcome? Do you want to resolve things or fight? If you want to fight then you should write letters, and do everything else you have seen on any of those movies about nasty teenage girls. If you want to resolve things, sit down and ASK the person about the incident and make sure you have not misinterpreted something.
5. Listen to what they have to say. Hear the intention in what they did. You will be surprised to find that very few people get up every day intending to do things to hurt us. It is even possible that they perceive something you had done first to have been a slight to them.
6. Remember your connection to people. See that and not just an incident or words that hurt. Undiluted, situations can seem huge. Diluted into the sea of our entire relationship, it is often another thing.
7. Don’t involve everyone or even anyone else. Put your big girl pants on and stand on your own two feet to deal with life. If you have to pull in a crowd to give you courage that can be a strong clue that what you are about to do/or what you have done, is probably the wrong thing.
Instead, you might consider:
1. Talk to the person, ask questions, listen to the answers. Putting things in writing allows for all kinds of misinterpretations. Words are not as multi dimensional as is communication face to face where we can see body language, hear tone of voice and immediately address what we don’t understand.
2. Allow the person to apologize if that is required. Accept it.
3. If you need to apologize, do it.
4. Accept that you might never agree and allow people their differing opinions with respect. The conversation can still have a positive outcome. Everything in life is not a competition, it is not a fight to the death match. If “being right” is more important to you than anything else, that is probably your biggest clue that you still have issues to work on. You will not always be the winner … or the loser. Handle both with dignity. Better yet, learn to live your life with a grace that allows others their own identities that may not be anything remotely like you.
5. Everything we do in our lives is our legacy. Every person we interact with carries the imprint for love or fear/hate with them. Who are you? There is really so little time in this world. Think about it.
6. If you have done everything you can and the other person is still fighting … walk away. Let it go. They are entitled to their miserable life. You don’t have to be part of it in any way. Just let it go.
The biggest thing we need to remember is that the world is full of people. We get to choose who or what we want in our life. If someone irritates you, you do not have to write poison pen letters and act like an ass. You can simply get on with your own life – minus that person. You are entitled to your opinions and your choices for YOUR life. You have actual rights concerning YOU but you do not have any rights over another adult. NONE. Criticism is something most people struggle with. They struggle with it when it comes from the people they love. They certainly do not want to hear it from someone who knows nothing about them. People can recognize the difference between criticism given in love, meant to be helpful, and that given with some sense of superior attitude with the intent to destroy.
Of course we feel things, we get upset. We are allowed our feelings but it is important to gain an understanding that those feelings have everything to do with who we are, and little to do with the other person. When you find yourself getting angry, that is the time you need to address those problem areas in yourelf because your reaction to anything is a choice YOU make. You could just as easily decide to laugh or ignore something, as be angry at it. What makes you angry, is your demon to work on.
When someone comes at you, out of control angry, and there is no hope of resolution, you have to realize we cannot fight one another’s demons. It can be tempting to retaliate in kind, who doesn’t have that gut emotional response? But there are so many more important issues to consider, and most importantly, ALWAYS err on the side of being kind and true to yourself, rather than give in to the wounded animal instincts. So, in this case, I have to simply love the writer, bless him in my heart – wishing him well, and get on with the things in my life that matter.