Monday, June 20, 2011

How to properly reevaluate yourself and your friends.

I'm sending this to everyone I no longer wish to speak to.
One of the things about Twitter—and social media in general—that amuses me so much is when tweeps express a need to eliminate people from their lives.  It’s not a bad thing.  I can dig it.  But why are you telling everybody, especially the very people you intend to discard?
“Distancing myself from a lot of folks. Don’t be surprised if you’re one of them.”
“If you’re receiving this text, it’s because I’m deleting your number.”
“I’m moving forward with my life, and you’re probably not included.”
In otherwords,
“I’m #cleaninghouse.”
Hmm.  This seems an extremely counterintuitive way of bringing about change.  When I constantly see messages like this (not in my inbox but in my TL and News Feed) and from the same people, it makes me think of three things.  One, why for come are you burning bridges…again?  I thought you just did that last month.  Two, what it is the purpose of telling these individuals you no longer wish to remain cool?  They probably don’t care, and if they did I’d think that would just add to the drama you intend to remove from your life.  And three, at what point do you start telling yourself that you’re the one that needs to change?
Yes, you.  You’re the only other person at the table and it’s not like I’m talking to myself.  Could you pass me the gravy for my steak and potatoes?  Please and thanks.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had to reevaluate my friends several times.  High school and college were both transitional periods for me as they were for everyone else, and on more than one occasion I had to say, “fµck ya’ll, I’m doin’ my own thing.”  I mean, I was younger then and it’s not like I ever said that out loud.  Or, maybe I did.  But those adolescent episodes pale in comparison to the challenges I faced in 2008 when I nearly suffered a mental breakdown.  Ego, dagnabbit.  It’s a bïtch and eventually I’ll be rid of it.  But the things I learned about myself and others during that bottom point helped me grow into the person I am today, and I’d like to share some of that knowledge with whoever may be experiencing a similar, difficult phase.  The first thing to understand is that
There exists good people, good people who do bad things, and bad people.
But bad people are extremely rare.  Yes.  Extremely.  How do I know?  I suppose I don’t really.  But to me, bad people almost go out of their way to be harmful, and who has time for that?  What I find more common are generally good people who occasionally do bad things, mostly stemming from selfishness.  Nobody is perfect.  We’ve all made mistakes, have we not?  We have our selfish moments.  We offend and take offense easily.  We contradict ourselves.  We find ways to justify our douchebaggery towards others and then get mad when we’re treated unjustly.  But she may feel compelled to head to Miami with her girls instead of attending your performance.   He may have his reasons for missing your birthday and not calling.  And I’m pretty sure you felt the need to be an åss when your ex was just reaching out to see how you were doing.  Nobody is perfect.
Now I recognize that if somebody routinely exhibits selfish behavior and can never place anybody else’s needs or concerns prior to their own then yes, they’re probably toxic and you should maintain a safe distance.  And yes, perhaps it takes some time to figure out who those individuals are and when you do realize their true nature, a sudden break in the relationship must occur.  But simply acknowledge this to yourself.  What purpose does communicating your feelings to them serve?  It’s not like they ever listened to you in the first place, right?  In my mind, it makes more sense to
Trust people to be themselves and don’t hold grudges.
If your friends are always late, does it not make sense to account for their tardiness?  If you’re out with your fellas and one in particular always manages to go off and do his own thing (guilty as charged I am), is it not sensible to make sure you aren’t dependent on him for a ride home?  If she’s not good withholding privileged information, why share it with her?  What’s the purpose of making friends if you’re not going to learn about their behavior?  For as much as we grow and as much as we can change, more often than not we have the same tendencies today as we did at this time last year.
You can’t very well be mad at somebody for doing that which you disapprove, especially if you knew it was in his or her character to do it.  Don’t trust somebody to be there for you if they’ve proven incapable.
Well, if I can’t trust them at all, why do I need them in my life?
It’s not that you can’t trust them; it’s just that you should trust them to be themselves.  But that doesn’t mean holding grudges or taking their actions personally to the point where you abandon them completely.  Protect yourself at all cost, but you can do so while still maintaining your good nature.  In fact, when it comes to your own well being,
You should not let the actions of others affect how you conduct yourself,
And I think this is why reading these tweets and wall posts from people annoy me.  The impression I get is that the subject of such tweets has routinely slighted the poster of said tweets in some way, shape, form or fashion.  The implication is that the subject is somehow a bad or negative person.  But now the poster looks just as spiteful and negative, and the innocent bystanders caught along the way can’t help but feel as though both parties deserve each other.
If somebody does something foul or if you perceive them to be toxic, you can look just as foul and toxic when you express that to everyone else.  Not only that, but you’ll be given the side eye by folks like me who constantly read these messages from you as if nothing ever changes.  But I guess that doesn’t matter.  My point is that if you want to be on the positive end of an equation, then you need to try to remain as positive as possible, even when others do things to “hurt” you*.  The easiest way to remain positive, especially when choosing the people with whom we surround ourselves, is to
Evaluate the good relationships you have, and focus on making those better.
After all, isn’t the whole point behind sending out mass “clean house” messages to make sure the world knows you can distinguish the good folks around you from the bad ones?  I guess it’s that whole addition by subtraction theory.  But that is absolutely useless if you don’t have any good friendships to begin with.  So instead of growing bitter at the folks who’ve slighted or annoy you, and instead of trying to identify all those åssholes you don’t need, why not spend that time getting closer to the people who have been there for you?  Why not take an even further interest in the lives of those who’ve taken an interest in yours?  Be around positive people that make you feel good.  Because at the end of the day, consciously deciding who’s excess—and who deserves to know they’re excess—is an inefficient use of energy and is ultimately an investment in more negativity.  And I’m guessing that is the last thing you need right now.
So do something nice for someone today.  If it’s appreciated, they’ll show you and you’ll feel better for it.  The “excess” people will weed themselves out naturally and you won’t feel bitter the next time you see them.  You may even end up doing something nice for them, knowing full well the gesture will not be returned.  And that’s a good thing.  Because you can only express that much benevolence when you’re in a good place, which is somewhere I’d hope we can all strive to be.
Am I the only one who’s needed to have this kind of self-reflection moment?  Do you notice mass “clean house” messages constantly being sent or tweeted from the same people?  Do you think they could benefit from practicing any of the above, or do you have any other words of wisdom to share with them?  I mean, sharing is caring, so let us know what you think.
*I realize there are many examples of hurt that may justify vengeful action (even though I don’t always agree with vengeance), such as rape or the infliction of injury.  But I put “hurt” in quotes because the source of many “clean house” messages is more often than not something petty.  Especially when you consider the more serious offenses such as rape or kidnap or abuse that far too often receive no justice.


  1. lol, I like the comment above.

    But I really like this post! I too have been confused by the Cleaning Out My Closet tweets. It's dramatic and a transparent cry for attention. They're just waiting for someone to say "Please keep me in your life! I'll be good!"

    I've also noticed that circles generally tend to empty themselves out. I usually don't have to tell someone we're not a match anymore, they figure it out, and we usually just fall off. It doesn't take a grand announcement.

    Thanks for the post and the advice on friendship. I will share this with others.

  2. "Trust people to be themselves and don’t hold grudges." ----> that's def a good formula for great friendships. I realize that the people I am closest to are those who take me as I am and trust me to continue to be that way, even if they may be very different from me. (and vice versa).

    it's good to reevaluate your friends once in a while but like Crystal said, it usually happens 'naturally' and there isnt a need to be dramatic about it.

    Thanks for the 'Biscuit & Gravy' know I could use a batch :-)

  3. Heh... the guy Comcast sent to work on my cable had as his voicemail outgoing message: "I've made some changes in my life. If I don't call you back you're one of them."

  4. @Ms. Bynoe,
    Glad to leave you satisfied.

    @Crystal Marie from A Word Or Three,
    I do agree that it seems like a transparent cry for attention. But I guess it worked, since the issue has gotten my attention.

    Yes, that is often the best part of friendship. When people are jus allowed to be themselves.

    So, if he doesn't call you back, I guess that means he's out a job?

    Thanks for reading and commenting.

  5. I remember years ago I had a friend who could not STAND another friend of mine. She told me it was because he just didn't act like a normal person. I reminded her that he wasn't a normal person! She knew what he was like and if she just expected him to act like he normally acted, it wouldn't upset her as much as when she expected to act like she thought he should act.

    It didn't really change her mind, but it helped ME a lot. I learned that your expectations have a lot to do with your happiness. Doesn't mean it's easy to remember all the time, but it does help to remind me to take a step back and evaluate myself on occasion. And I think a positive approach to the evaluation is always better than a passive-agressive approach.

    Thanks for such a great post! :-)

  6. Very enjoyable reading. My friend (and we are friends in real life) said Facebook is not a way to maintain friends but a time-stamped record of watching your interest in someone die. I love it!

    Very insightful advice about friendship from you and the commenters. I have to admit, though, it's hard for me not to insist on some basic "shoulds." In my life, that's basically, if I say you hurt me, and you say you are my friend, you should apologize, because I'd do it for you. That's my deal-breaker. I accept occasional explosions of selfishness and craziness. I don't accept them without true apology.

  7. @Giggles,
    The whole concept of 'normal' is subjective, and if anybody called me normal I'd probably take it as an insult, tho knowing me I wouldn't take offense :) Glad you can appreciate the non normalcy of your friend.

    I completely agree. However, if you and I are true friends, my guess is that we would not be passive aggressive with what we're feeling. Basically, if I do something that hurts you and then you post a comment on FB that may or may not be directed towards me personally, I mean, thas jus petty.

    I think the "clean house" messages address a less severe situation, and have more to do with the sender than the vague recipients.

    But you're right, serious offenses are often cause for genuine apology. But if the offender is unaware of the offense that he or she has made (which does happen) then you can't expect an apology without first expressing your concern...directly and not for the entire world to see.

  8. "You can't expect an apology without first expressing your concern...directly and not for the entire world to see."

    Agreed! Because I know I'm cold enough to cut somebody out of my life, I know I also have to be bold enough to tell them what I'm feeling and give them the opportunity to help resolve the situation.

    Sometimes I worry that I should let more stuff just slide, but I've opted for the "talk it out to squash it" model. I have a feeling you're more laid-back and accepting than I am. I'm still working on it.

  9. "I have a feeling you're more laid-back and accepting than I am."

    Well, it depends. Little things sometimes bother me more than bigger things, but that's because bigger things are sometimes understandable, and those little things that everybody take for granted are also the cause of those very big things everybody despise...but that is an issue for another post.

    In terms of apologizing, and being personally responsible for wrong doing, I try to remain as objective as possible and I'm also an avid supporter of forgiveness.

  10. good stuff, Grehe!

    I agree with your sentiments that people shouldn't publicly boast that they are #cleaninghouse, even if they are. I also really like your advice to 'trust people to be themselves'.... that's the realest thing you ever wrote. I've been making a serious effort to keep that in mind when I have interactions with people that are less than desirable.

  11. Great stuff makes sense to me. If you have to text someone and say I'm not including you in my life then you are either bitter that they don't take any notice of you and want to creat some drama like you said. Also people do let other people dictate how they react/live their own lives, particularly if they end a relationship. Best thing to do is move on and look to better things. A great man once said I think it was JFK don't hold grudges against people but remember their names.

  12. True meaningful advice, thanks!

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