Tuesday, September 26, 2006

A Pain in the Arse?

I am currently pondering a question we all come across from time to time - what do we say when someone we care about seems to be making a major life decision we may not agree with? When they (implicitly or othewise) ask us for feedback on their decision and we know they are really hoping that we will just straightforwardly back them and cheer them on?

When the issue for us is not so much one of approval or disapproval in some abstract moral sense, but more one of seeing certain dangers in the decision they may be about to make. Dangers which they themselves may openly acknowledge, but which we kind of get the feeling they don't want to see too clearly. When we think that they are making the decision in a sort of frenzy. When we think that, some time in the future, they may seriously regret that decision, which impacts on other people as well as on themselves.

I know that I am not alone in pondering this question. Dewdrop, for instance, was pondering something similar a few months ago.

Now the answer, at least to me, is clear. A different person might think that the answer is clear in a very different way: They might think that we should refrain from making comment on other people's lives that is probably unwelcome, even if we have been asked for our feedback. But the answer to me is clear in this way: If we care about that person, we should probably tell that person what we are thinking, as long as we are trying to be constructive and not just plain judgemental.

But how many times should we tell them? Is it the case that once is necessary, twice is perhaps desirable if we are still concerned, but three times and we are becoming a santimonious, judgemental pain in the arse?

I have some reason to think I may be verging on the santimonious, judgemental pain in the arse in this situation.

And what if we suspect that part of the issue is that this person just pushes a lot of buttons for us? That not only do we like them and relate to their dilemma, but they are making a decision similar to one that someone we still love once made and that hurt us very deeply? And, in fact, a decision similar to one that we ourselves once made and now wish we had done differently? That we ourselves once felt was so necessary, so urgent that we made it in a kind of frenzy, believing that it sprang from our deepest and truest selves? But that, as we kind of knew even at the time, did not reflect our beliefs, our values or even who we really were and wanted to be, at heart?

Is this a reason to back off, and even to apologise, knowing that we may have been pushing off some of our own baggage onto them? Or is this a reason to continue saying what we feel, partly from the belief that we should be honest as a sign of our respect for them and partly because we hope that telling them something we learned from our own experience might possibly save them much future regret?

Even if we, at some level, acknowledge that nobody can really tell anyone anything. And that, in some situations, maybe most situations, all advice is useless. In one of my favourite infertility blogs , advice is called assvice, in recognition of this great truth.

And what if we suspect that the essential issue for us is perhaps, ultimately, not what this person is doing with their life, but what we ourselves have done with our own life?

I know this is a very cryptic post. At least one potential reader will know what it is about. And perhaps for that reason it should not have been written at all. But it is not just about this particular situation. It is about something else that will have to be the subject of another post, because (saved by the bell!) my boy is starting to cry from overtiredness and needs to be put to bed for the night.


Blogger freebird said...

Make that two potential readers! And the comment (simple though it is) that I’ve just left for the other one could double as a comment here.
I’ll just add the very obvious point that we only see one facet of other people’s lives here - the part that they choose to expose on their blogs, so that’s all anyone can comment on. But if your advice is based on your own experience, as well as heartfelt empathy with her situation, I’m sure the recipient will find some value in it whether or not she chooses to ‘weed out’ what she might see as bias or baggage.
I dunno, Emily, you could always set up as an agony aunt - Aunt Em from Oz? Hmm, has a certain ring.
But leaving us with a cliffhanger...! Hurry up with the next post, the suspense is killing me!

3:48 AM  
Blogger trueself said...


Comment away on my blog at least. And yes, I know exactly what your post is about.

5:27 AM  
Blogger Cat said...

Well I have no idea who you are talking about, but all your comments are welcome on my blog ;)

6:55 AM  
Blogger Dewdrop said...

Bleedin' 'ell mate. What the frig are you going on about? lol

11:33 AM  
Blogger Satan said...

Glad I could finally get to the comments (is Blogger fucking up for anyone else?) to figure out what(who) this post was about!

1:11 PM  
Blogger Just Me said...

When I lived in Hungary, the thing that was hard to get used to, but then deeply appreciated, was their directness. They cared enough to tell me when my shirt was not attractive on me so I wouldn't make the sma mistake twice, and if I asked their advice I knew I would get a straight forward answer. It depends on how close you are to this person, and if they keep coming back to you for advice.

I wish you luck and love in this - and I always like reminders to examine my own self.

5:32 PM  

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