Some know the cautionary tale about the frog and the spider trying to get across a raging river. The frog cannot see in order to find the other side. The spider cannot swim. They form a friendship and decide together they can get across. The spider hops on top of the frogs back and the life saving journey begins. But, just as they are about to reach the other side and be free, the spider stings the frog and they both drowned. As they are sinking the frog asks, “WHY? Why did you do that?” The last words of the spider are, “Because it’s my nature”. I’d like to change the story. In my version the frog looks up just as the spider is about to sting him and makes the getaway from him safely reaching the other side.
We all know people like the spider. It is not always easy to see them as they are. They can speak $500 words at a pretty impressive rate. And most good-hearted people believe what people say, because like the frog, we have a hard time believing that they would intentionally lie or hurt us. This is an ugly part of human nature.
As my mentor, Father Ralph Di Orio once told me, “not every knock on the door is a friend”. How can we identify people who are true? First we must observe their actions. Words are cheap, no matter how fancy. At the same time, it is important to listen to people carefully and ask questions. Everything adds up with an honest person. A deceitful person will resent you for the questions. Use the gift of discernment with every person in your life. If something looks like a skunk and smells like a skunk, it’s a skunk no matter how you feel about it. Debra Seaman, a successful business woman and CFO of Seaman Engineering, says, “don’t confuse your mind with your heart”.
Be cautious of people who constantly cry over the same things. Healthy people know that it does no good to keep crying over the same things. We must move on and use our energy to build a life in the present and the future. In order to move on, we must abandon the bad behavior and habits that caused us misery or loss in the first place. This is key. Chances are people who continue to mourn incessantly over their mistakes, do so because they continue to make the same mistakes and use their tears to deceive you in order to make you unable see to their current mistakes.
Most major religions speak of forgiveness and repentance. As a Christian, life is all about grace and growth that leads to salvation AND happiness. When we make mistakes, we tell God (Jesus) we’re sorry. We repent and try make up for our mistakes. Many times we make up for mistakes, with strangers, and not necessarily the people we hurt. Sometimes we cannot make things up to the one we hurt, because it may damage present relationships or it simply isn’t possible. The point is to DO something for someone to show the opposite virtue of the vice that caused you to harm another. Then we accept God’s grace to give us strength to avoid making the same mistakes. The last one is the most important part of healing. We have to change. And that my friends, is where we lose a lot of would be success stories. Some people want to continue with the same behavior, habits and patterns and somehow arrive at a different outcome. Not only is this the very definition of insanity, it is selfish. Bad behavior will never lead to the fruits of the life given to us by the Spirit- joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, and self-control. Tragically, bad behavior leads to sickness, sadness, pain and death.
Pay attention to the reasons why somebody likes you or loves you. Is it for you, or is it because of the way you make them feel when you’re around them. If somebody loves the way they feel around you, and not you, they are selfish. They only love themselves. Anthony DeMello, author of THE WAY OF LOVE, explains it like loving a sunset. We love sunsets because of their beautiful qualities, not because we want to, or even try to possess them. Ask someone why they love you. If they begin with “Because you make me feel…”, RUN! They will do anything to feel good and will not care about hurting you. When someone loves you, they will never want to hurt you, and will do everything in their power to make sure that they don’t.
A loving kind person will make you feel secure, peaceful and valued. If you cannot find a person like that, be that kind of person. Everything around us blooms when we truly love others for their own good and not our own. Loving ourselves enough to make selfish people stay away from us, is like pulling weeds out of the garden. It allows everything else to get the sunshine and nutrients to grow. Besides, we don’t always want to spend our time and energy recovering from someone else’s mess that they are having a good time making. When we constantly allow people to hurt us, it turns us inward on ourselves trying to recover and heal. There is a whole world out there that needs healing and our attention. There is a happy life waiting for each one of us-if we’re willing to do the work and make the getaway.