Tonight I watched one of the most horrifying things on TV I’ve ever seen. If it was fiction, it would have been bearable, but this was something based on real life, and it made me sick to my stomach. I don’t really want to go into what I watched, but suffice it to say a sixteen-year-old kid was pretty much coerced into confessing to a crime he didn’t commit. They had the interrogations taped so you could view it for yourself. I realize there are three sides to every issue (what he said, what she said, and what actually happened). However, it was hard not to take a side on this issue. I heard the way the investigators were asking their questions, and being a Psychology major, I picked out the ways they were forcing him to answer those questions in a certain way. The way questions are asked does have an impact on the kind of answers you get, which is why it’s especially important to be objective when investigating a case.
Anyway, long story short, the whole time I was watching this, all I could think was, “Kids are so impressionable, and adults (esp. those in suits with badges) can be intimidating.” I remember what it was like to be sixteen and how scared I was of authority. Then I thought, it’s so easy to give in and do what others want me to do.
I have a hard time saying no. (Not so much now, but earlier on in life, I was horrible at it.) I’ve been a doormat. I’ve had people take advantage of me a lot. It’s hard not to take a stand for something you know is right. It’s hard to say no when you know you have every right to. It’s hard not to try to give someone something they want. Sometimes being sensitive to others’ feelings and needs can be a bad thing because we feel guilty when we put our foot down. Logically, we know know it’s okay, but that doesn’t mean we don’t wonder if we are “mean” when we do.
On the flip side to this, of course, are the takers of the world. These people never feel guilty for taking advantage of others. In fact, they find all kinds of ways to try to make you feel like the bad guy for not giving them whatever they want. I’ve learned there is no dealing with this type. All you can do is ignore them as much as possible.
The older I get, the easier it is to detect who the takers are. Learning to trust that gut instinct has been one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself. If you’ve ever had that “This is a bad idea” feeling in your gut, ignored it, and later lived to regret it, you know what the gut instinct is all about. I will be about to do something or meet someone, and something in the back of my mind will say, “Don’t do it. You’re going to regret it.” Then when I tell someone (like my husband), “This isn’t a good idea. We shouldn’t do it.” He’ll ask me, “Why?” And honestly, I can’t tell him. “It’s just a feeling,” I’ll say. And he’ll look at me like I’m nuts.
So yes, I get it. Some of you will have no idea what I’m talking about. But I’m betting there are some of you who do.
It might seem irrational to go with that gut instinct, but I’ve found it has resulted in bad results every time I ignored it. When I trusted it, things went way better. This is true for people, for writing, and other areas of my life. I will just “know” when something is right and “know” when something is wrong.
But anyway, I digress. The whole purpose of this post was to encourage those of you who are givers (those who often will give to everyone before you even think of yourself) that it’s okay to think of yourself, too. Yes, it’s good to care about people and do what you can to help, but there should be limits. When you start to feel you’re being taken advantage of, that’s a warning sign. When you start to feel guilty for not doing something and a trusted friend tells you that you have no reason to feel guilty, this is another warning sign. Often others we love and trust can see things in a clearer light than we can.
There’s a balance between being a giving person and being taken advantage of. The goal is to find the balance. You don’t want to be selfish, but you don’t want to be a doormat either.
I guess this post really didn’t have much to do with the opening paragraph, but it helped to get it off my chest. My advice, for what it’s worth, is to give your kids/grandkids a long hug tonight (if you have them) because you never know if something bad is going to end up happening to them out of their gullibility about the world. It’s important they have someone they know loves them no matter what. You can try to guide them and warn them, but I also know we can’t be there with them all the time to protect them from everything. There are so many things I wish I had done differently when I was younger. (I’m 41 now, so I still have a ways to go.) But still, I like to think I’m getting wiser about things as I get older.
Okay, I’ll stop rambling now.