Hidden Truths, Secret Sorrows

“Every man has his secret sorrows which the world knows not; and often times we call a man cold when he is only sad.”
― Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Our face is a mask, sometimes opaque, sometimes transparent.

Recently a friend of mine was taking an online test about reading emotions, and not doing too well. She was frustrated. I suspect the test was flawed in multiple ways, and even if she did read the emotions correctly, there’s never any way to be certain of the reason for the feelings. We can’t read minds, and we don’t know all that is happening in anyone’s life.

Someone may smile at something we said because it ties in with a conversation they had only a moment before. We’re unaware of what was said, however, and think they’re smiling inappropriately at our tale, and become frustrated. It happens everyday.

That’s a simple misunderstanding. Just as we don’t know what is spoken in the moments before we join a discussion, we most often have no way of fully knowing what’s happening in the lives of those around us. People are discreet enough generally to keep their private lives private, and sometimes they do so almost to a fault.

I have a friend who was dealing with her mother’s Alzheimer’s last year, and I never knew until shortly before her mom died. She and I had been working on a project together and I’d wondered why she’d lost her enthusiasm for it. Was it something I said? Had I been too controlling? I can get stuck in my ways. Now, that could have been the case, but more likely, she simply had other priorities.

She kept up a brave face around me, and maybe wondered why I never asked how her mom was doing. You see, others knew. I didn’t. Perhaps I should have known. We live in a communication age, but our own personal interactions frequently suffer from presumptions and assumptions all around. We rely too much on expectations and, as I alluded to above, expressions of emotion.

How we view our peers and others around us is more than just reading facial expressions, of course.

As well as how they view us. We’re born with a look that defines us, or helps others think they can define us. We grow and mature and that look changes and develops with us, but never truly reflects all that we are. It limits our definition of ourselves to other people.

When I was in high school, I peripherally was friends with a young woman, a year older than I, who to this day I’d have to say was the most beautiful woman I’ve ever met. Another woman in my group described her by saying, “she looks like a cover girl, only she hasn’t been airbrushed.” The only person to come close to matching her beauty (and it may be a tie) was her younger sister.
woman eyes with flower, color pencil drawing, eye contact. Computer collage.
But beauty had its price. Let me add here these were two of the nicest, most sincere women you’d ever meet as well, and their parents were great people. Yet despite all the kindness they’d show to others, they were subject to vicious rumors and gossip simply because of petty jealousy. They faced other problems directly related to their looks, such as expectations from men when they were far too young to handle that sort of thing, and so on. It wasn’t fair.

The older girl, my friend, was often cautious around other people, knowing what they would be saying as soon as she left the room. That in turn led to talk she was “stuck-up” because she’d be reluctant to open up to someone new, or even those she knew well enough already.

We make judgments sometimes to feel in control of a situation. If we understand what’s going on, we can deal with it, so we seek an answer — and run the risk of being horribly wrong.

How do we discern a person’s heart?

Respecting another’s privacy is an important value to many of us, and in doing so, we also must respect we will likely give up some knowledge we may find useful, whether we have a right to it or not. That knowledge includes the ability, at times, to fully understand someone’s painful history and appreciate their distant behavior as a symptom of that aching within themselves.

I do believe we should, in general, live with an attitude every person is far more complex than we can recognize when we first meet them. Giving someone the benefit of the doubt, understanding we don’t know what secret sorrows they face, is the gracious thing to do.

Having that open mind and open heart, giving others a chance to reveal themselves, will help teach us the perception and insight we seek. It is immensely rewarding to be the one who discovers the cold and bitter outsider is a warm, kind person waiting to be loved.

Yes, we must always use discretion when reaching out to others to save ourselves from being taken advantage of by manipulative and greedy people. A slow and steady approach of grace with the counsel of others is always wise.

Grace, wisdom, warmth of spirit. Gifts of human kindness that can change the world.

Oil painting nature grass flowers- yellow dandelions

 


Image Credits: (Masks) © tereks — Fotolia; (Face) © jozefklopacka — Fotolia; (Flowers) © nongkran-ch — Fotolia

What You See…

Nothing is what it appears to be.

Ever been convinced something is true, only to discover there is, indeed, another logical explanation? I admit, it’s easier for me to point out this oh-so-human flaw in others, and I know a few people who routinely will stubbornly insist they are right, regardless of the possibility there is another way of looking at the situation.

Moments ago I was proven wrong about something that seemed so clear to me…okay, I knew my suggestions were off-the-wall, but there honestly was a logic to them. And who knows, in the future someone might say, “hey, she was right…I’ll be darned!” I’m not counting on it, but it has happened in the past.

I try not to judge others, and one of the biggest reasons why is this: we simply don’t have all the information. No matter how wise, sophisticated or informed you may believe yourself to be, you are not omniscient. You are limited in your view of the world by your experience.

One friend of mine practically spits if you mention Melania Trump.

Now, I’m not a fan of our president, never have thought he was anything but a buffoon. I can’t imagine being married to him (the thought of that makes me spit), and neither can my friend. Yet just because we see nothing desirable in the man doesn’t mean some other woman won’t find him attractive.

I hear the laughter — let me finish —

Seriously, while my friend thinks Melania married Donald strictly for his money, I say this: I don’t know the woman. I don’t know why she married him. I don’t know what he was like when he was courting her. You get my point. Maybe the money was the strongest draw, maybe not. I would guess she never genuinely anticipated being First Lady, and that’s a role with a high cost, so I have some sympathy for her. My friend does not; she thinks she got what she deserved.

That’s the kind of judgment I pray you never hear me make about another.

I was the victim of some harsh judgment several years ago,

and I lull myself to sleep many nights thinking how my accusers may have fallen in their pursuit of evidence of my non-existent wrongdoing. They spent a lot of time and money chasing after this information, and someone, somewhere along the line, must have said, “what the hell are you doing?” because they never dug up the dirt they were certain was within their grasp. There must have been enough misinterpreted data along the way for them to continue in this fruitless pursuit, and I imagine they fell victim to their own limited viewpoint when evaluating the facts.

Knowing human nature, and in particular, knowing the individuals involved, they never did give up believing I was guilty of some wrong-doing. Perhaps they are still waiting for me to trip up.

I’m not suggesting
Train Passengers
Each of us has our own unique view, our own experience to draw on.

we remain so open-minded we become gullible, victims of our own consideration. There is a point where we know enough to draw reasonable conclusions. It’s when we think we know more than we actually do that we’re most likely to judge others. The biggest danger is judging people who are more acquaintances than friends, or assessing situations in which we are dabblers, not experts.

Nothing is as it seems…so judge not, lest ye be judged.


Image Credits: (Blue Eyes) © JosefArt — Bigstock; (Crowd on Train) courtesy of Pixabay

As I Appear Before You

How do I know who you are? And what do you know about me by looking at me?

As I write this, I’m wearing clothes that need a good wash, my hair is in desperate need of styling, and any makeup I put on earlier today has worn off. I need some groceries, but I hesitate to head to the store. I don’t want to be judged by my appearance. It probably wouldn’t be complimentary.

AdobeStock_98604038 [Converted]

Yet even at my best, my most cleaned up, there are going to be those who judge me in a negative way.

Just as so many make assumptions about others. We all do it to a certain extent, sum a person up with our first impressions. That quick assessment is based on our beliefs and previous experiences, and is likely to be limited and narrow.

You won’t know me until you talk to me, and even then it will take some time. You won’t know me until you see me in separate circumstances, and most people don’t have that opportunity.

We have our beliefs about others that are tidily summed up in stereotypes. The Germans are stoic, if you’re from Latin America, you’re passionate. There is some truth to those beliefs culturally, but not necessarily for individuals. Each of us has our life experience that shapes our unique personality.

In America, if you’re from the south, you’re a bigot, a racist. Yankees are rude. For that last one, I’ll tell you as someone who’s lived in both southern and northern states there is a more genteel, some might say passive, approach to manners in the south. So in contrast, those from up north do appear rude.

bigstock-Cute-Cartoon-Fairytale-Princes-111350732 [Converted]For example, the idea of mirroring someone’s statement to show you understand them is simply not done at the very Southern company I worked for several years ago. It’s considered rude, confrontational. Instead, you should… well, frankly, I never did figure out how you’re supposed to handle it.

And while I wouldn’t call all Southerners racist, there is a remarkable them/us view with many of the people I know born and raised south of the Mason/Dixon line. They don’t see it. In fact, they justify every word of their own beliefs. As do I, with my own beliefs.

There are times when I need to challenge those beliefs. For example, you might arguably say I have some prejudice against those from the southern United States.

We make broad judgments based on a person’s race, ethnicity, gender, manner, clothing, accent, and whatever else we take in during those first seconds of meeting someone. And those judgments stick with us.

Some stubbornly maintain their beliefs, while others are willing to challenge themselves. Some give others a second chance, some are one-and-done.

AdobeStock_98604035 [Converted]Some have seen me at my worst, and don’t want to risk knowing me any further. My disappointment at those times is a challenge for me overcome.

People who know me know I’m a caring person, compassionate and kind. They know I’d do anything for my family, and that includes my cats. They know I shrivel up inside at the thought of hurting my friends.

They know other things about me, too. Things I won’t list here, because why spell out my faults?

They have forgiven me my insensitive moments, my selfish moods.

Each of us is complex, even those who seem the most simple. We all can surprise those who think they know us with an unguarded moment.

So who you think you see is not who I am. Nothing is at it appears, no one is as she appears.

 

Image Credits: © sapunkele — Adobe Stock