I'm starting to realise the power of instinct. To trust the little voice - well, not even a little voice - to trust my own reactions to people.
I'm trying to do this as anonymously as possible, so I can't be perfectly clear in the anecdotes that will follow. I apologise if details are a little fuzzy at points.
Case study no. 1
Old man for whom my father feels sorry because he's stuck in a rest home most of the time, and so he invites him round for lunch reasonably often. When I happen to be there, I find myself behaving very coldly towards the man, who I just can't seem to make myself like. In fact, I find him incredibly creepy. I can hardly bring myself to talk to him and I avoid him. So I feel very rude. This is not how I was brought up to behave.
Later, I come across someone who works at the rest home he lives in. I would much rather have not heard this - honestly - but, according to this person, he's got a track record of saying inappropriate things to the young women on the staff there, one of whom filed a sexual harassment complaint against him.
Case study no. 2
A middle-aged man who attends something I attend. (Again, sorry about the vagueness.) This man has had many medical problems all his life, and he looks slightly odd. He also happens to have quite a strange manner. When he comes and talks to me, he's always very friendly, yet I find myself being, again, icy cold.
I torment myself about this. How can I treat someone like this, just because I find them "weird"? "Different"? Am I altering the way I treat him because I don't like the way he looks? How could I be so superficial? If this were a movie, I would be the mean townsperson.
Then someone comes to me: they have noticed this man approaching me. They warn me that he has, in the past, had a tendency to become obsessed with young women who are nice to him. He cannot tell the difference between kind friendship and romantic interest, and a while ago he proposed to a young woman who felt she should treat him just as she would treat any other male friend.
It is astonishing to me to discover my intuition. To realise that even if I don't have a logical, reasonable argument for the way I instinctively react to someone, my reaction may still be trustworthy.
It's strange to realise - after a lifetime of being taught to love my neighbour as I love myself, to be kind to everyone regardless of their age, race, sex, appearance, whatever - that sometimes it's wise to listen to myself when I respond to someone with dislike.
I'm not saying that I think the principles I was raised on are incorrect. I just think they need to be applied with wisdom, and with understanding of the individual.
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