Monday, April 7, 2014

When Familiarity Breeds Contempt

“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” 
― Maya Angelou

Recently, I have been wondering about a certain pitfall of human nature that occurs within families, friendships, marriages, and other close relationships; it is when people (who should know better) turn against those close to them when they did nothing to deserve it. Since last month, someone very close to me has been a target of this type of unfair treatment, even after repeatedly telling and showing the "offended" party that she was not against them and wanted to keep the peace. I would have ignored it if it happened once or even twice, but she was barraged with accusations, which increased my annoyance with the situation. It all had to do with a much anticipated visit from a relative from overseas, how the news was shared with certain people and not others, and where he wanted to stay when he was here. This caused some unfortunate, long-standing family tensions to come forth. While I know he had a good visit, I also know he definitely would have enjoyed his time here much more without all of the unnecessary drama.

I have learned to deal with this treatment when the target is me; the last time it happened was late last year, when I overheard a conversation in which I was mentioned in dismissive and cruel terms. I was shocked at first, because I had just seen and had a pleasant time with this person, who I have known and loved for almost my whole life. After thinking about it for a little while, I realized that no matter how much I have and will always love and care for this person, she has always had an underlying feeling of contempt towards me, maybe because I remind her of a past she wants to forget. I may never really know why. Soon after the incident, I moved on, because I knew it had nothing to do with me; it had to with her feelings and perceptions. Our relationship may never be the same again, but at least I can say I have forgiven her; I will never forget it, because I learned some invaluable lessons from the experience.

I have observed that these conflicts often originate from the accusers' personal insecurities and skewed perceptions. Secure people don't have to attack those who did nothing to them. Fear of losing control, fear of the past or unknown, and/or maybe even envy or jealousy, can create major havoc in relationships. When I see people creating these negative dramas for themselves and others, I want to shake them and say, "Stop it! Life is too short for this nonsense!" But for those who act in these ways, trying to reason with them while they are in an unreasonable state will not work. The best thing to do is to take a step back, and refuse to engage in argumentative behavior that will not solve anything. When confronted, the best thing to do is to stand your ground, tell the truth, be diplomatic, and then walk away from the confrontation if nothing is working. Hopefully the accusers will calm down, stop hurling accusations, and maybe even apologize for their behavior. Maybe.

I may annoy and even anger some people I know with this post, but I think it is a subject worth talking about, and I wrote the truth. I know I can't be the only one who has experienced this kind of treatment, both directly and indirectly. The moral to this post is that even when you mean well and treat others with respect and kindness, there will always be someone who will take offense to those who don't offend for a variety of "reasons." Staying true to who you are is the best defense.

If you have any thoughts, please share them!

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