Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Trust yourself to deal with life's heartache and messes
Q: It's hard not to read it as an ultimately cynical response to me (when you said in Monday's column that "faith in other people can't be what gets you out of bed in the morning"). What role can trust possibly play if you have to walk around assuming a shoe is going to drop at any moment, from any direction, because people are ultimately unreliable and their words mean squat?
Also, it's going to take a while before I can genuinely wish my ex-boyfriend happiness. There were way better ways to break up with me but he didn't apologize for hurting/lying/cheating; he was defensive and minimized everything and said that what happened between us was just "life." To hope that his "life" with the office hooch is a happy one is a little more than I can manage right now.
Breakup Blues Again
A: Okay, I let it go the first time, but would you please lay off "the office hooch"? This is between you and your ex, and vilifying her just increases the bile where it's in your best interests to reduce it.
Trust has a role, a huge role. Primarily, you have to trust yourself, as I said — trust that you can deal with it if and when a shoe does drop.
You also have to trust your ability to choose good people; they'll consider your feelings, and won't pelt you with shoes 24/7.
But that trust in good people, and the confidence in your ability to choose them, still has to have an asterisk: We are human. We get emotional and do stupid (bleep), and we get fooled sometimes by people who do stupid (bleep) to us.
The highest-quality humans earn that distinction not by being perfect, but by recognizing when they're being jerks and doing their best to clean up whatever messes they create.
So it's not about looking constantly for dropping shoes. It's about empathy. It's knowing that you yourself make horrible mistakes, hoping you'll be forgiven — and so you must judge others with that in mind.
As it happens, showing that kind of regard for others will help attract like-minded people, people who won't drop shoes lightly, who will feel remorse when it happens, and who will do their best to take responsibility and make things right. That is trust you can trust.
By being defensive and minimizing everything, your BF essentially told you that he's not mature enough to warrant that trust, to handle the mess he created. Of course, he already proved that by having a fling in response to the news that his ex-wife was getting remarried. He's an angry wounded child who got busted, and he's acting like one.
You, too, have some angry wounded child going on, but you have the advantage of being you: You can recognize this and do something about it. You can see where your humanity got you into this mess, and you can see where you can do better next time — for example, in revisiting and upgrading your concept of trust.
And, you can see where you can't do better, where you just have to know that sometimes caring about people hurts.