Have you ever been with someone you didn’t trust?
A boyfriend or girlfriend. A brother or sister. A friend or teammate. Have you ever just wanted to look through their phone or read their emails because you had a feeling they were hiding something? Odds are, you have. And odds are even better than you found something that justified your insecurities.
People are funny. Some of us are intelligent or street smart, and some of us have trouble learning and aren’t good with details - but the one thing that almost all of us universally have is a fairly good intuition. Over the years, we have subconsciously honed this skill of perception. It is our gut-feeling, and is a tiny warning to keep us from from being fooled or lied to which we interpret as potential danger.
Usually our instincts are right. If we feel someone is lying to us or cheating on us or not telling us the full truth, we are correct. It is an instinct we rely on every single day and over the decades, we have gotten pretty good at discerning potential threats.
Now, have you ever caught someone lying or cheating on you by going through their texts or emails? Unfortunately, some of you have. And it was a sinking feeling. That unique feeling of wanting to vomit, burst into tears, and punch holes in the wall. And you confronted that person and showed them the evidence and what did they do? What was their response? Well, if you’re like most people in the world you were met with something to the effect of, “WHY WERE YOU LOOKING THROUGH MY PHONE!?”
Now, let’s take a step back for a minute. Sure, you violated someone’s privacy and yeah, that’s pretty shitty. But let’s be real here, we all know on the shitty scale, it’s a far cry from someone bold-face lying to you or banging another person. But you did it because you knew if you asked them outright if they were lying to you that they wouldn’t admit it - at least without proof because rare is the person who voluntarily gives themselves up. Most people in this world will hold on to the lie until it’s forced from their hands. Which brings us to “gaslighting.”
Are you familiar with this term? Well, if not, basically it is a tactic people use to make you believe that what you saw/felt/experienced wasn’t true/real/valid. Kind of a sociopathic jedi mind trick. So when you find evidence of cheating or lying on someone’s phone or in their emails, the accused with do everything within their power to get out of the situation and immediately focusing on the issue of you “violating their privacy” suddenly becomes the focus. It is a subtle form of gaslighting.
But how many of you stayed with that person despite the glaringly obvious. Your gut, your instinct, SCREAMED they were lying. That you couldn’t trust them. You saw the evidence but he said, “No, it’s not what it looks like.” And I can tell you, as a guy who has done plenty of shitty things in his life - it’s almost always what it looks like.
And yet despite the evidence, you maintained this veil of trust and put on a happy face and hugged and made up and ordered pizza and went on about your relationship as if it never happened. You told yourself to just forget it. It was in the past. But late at night, you couldn’t help thinking about it. Lying in bed, the events just didn’t add up. They didn’t make sense. “I mean, he said he was here and he told me to my face with such conviction… but the texts and pictures say otherwise.” And you go to bed and wake up in the morning and go about your day doing your best to hide those memories deep in the back of your brain… because you chose to believe the lie.
We have all done this at some point in our lives. Where the truth we know is different from the story we believe. That sharp sting we feel in bed at night is our stupidity. Our desperate faith in love attempting to overthrow our intuition. The idea that someone has abused our already fragile heart by being unfaithful is more than most of us can bear. And we can’t, we just can’t believe that someone who kisses our forehead at night and makes us dinner and looks deeply into our eyes and says, “You’re so fucking amazing,” could be lying.
But here’s the secret - the best liars and cheaters don’t look like liars and cheaters. They don’t act like liars and cheaters. Because the best liars and cheaters have turned lying and cheating into an art form. And their subconscious is attracted to your subconscious because they know that, if caught, someone like you will want to believe the lie and stay by their side. They seek you out. They prey on your generosity and your wide-eyed idealism. They take advantage of your belief in romance novels. They watch for the subtle clues to see if you are willing to believe in love so hard that you would ignore your instincts if you thought you could have even a moment of a John Green novel.
So what do we do?
Well first, don’t go through people’s stuff. If someone is going to cheat on you, they’re going to do it whether you lurk on not. Good liars and cheaters learn to cover their tracks and delete evidence and not tell a soul. Not finding incriminating evidence will only give you a false sense of security. Listen to your instincts and ask questions until you are fully satisfied. If someone gets upset and storms out of a room because you are asking simple and level-headed questions, they are hiding something. Ask to meet friends and be a part of their lives. Learn who they surround themselves with. Who a person chooses to surround themselves with is a direct reflection of who they are. But most importantly, learn to communicate. People who feel loved and cared for and listened to are far less likely to be dishonest. And if you just never feel comfortable in a relationship - leave. Because how awful would it be if you just gave up and got comfortable in the feeling of never feeling secure. Life is too goddamn short to be spent with dishonest people who aren’t excited to fully embrace your awesomeness.
Last night, I was in the parking lot sitting alone in a car waiting for someone. My phone had died so I was just taking in the surroundings of the people coming and going when a man in a wheelchair made his way through the cars. Eventually, he arrived at his SUV parked in the handicapped zone and unlocked the door. He was older, and I watched him struggle to unbelt himself from the chair and begin to make his way into the drivers seat. My first impression was to jump out and help him but after a two-count, I thought that might be a bit presumptuous. I mean, I assume he managed to drive there and get in and out before and I didn’t want to come off as insulting. Maybe this was his every day life, in and out of that car. Maybe he had been doing this for months or years or his entire life. Maybe he was born disabled and this was all he knew or maybe he lost the use of his legs when he was young or maybe he was hit by a drunk driver last year. Truth is, I didn’t know.
What I also didn’t know was if he has been the drunk driver. I didn’t know if maybe one night, he was driving home drunk and crashed into a family of three and he was the only one who lived because that seems to be how fate likes to deal those cards. Maybe he suffered from diabetes because he ate too much McDonalds and had his legs amputated. Maybe he was angry at the world and shouted racist tirades at the television when our president showed his face. Truth is, I wouldn’t know.
What I did know was that my first instinct was to help this man. Someone who had been dealt a hand that made his every day life a little more difficult living in this world and all I wanted to do was help make a portion of his every day life a little easier. Maybe by helping him lift his wheelchair into the back or just closing the door for him.
Now he made it inside just fine and drove away. And maybe that’s just a testament to his strength and tenacity or maybe his condition simply wasn’t as bad as it looked. Again, I didn’t know. But what I do know is that sometimes people need help. You, me, our parents, our neighbors, strangers, homeless, people with bad attitudes, and people who have simply been dealt a shitty hand. You don’t know their story and you shouldn’t make aspersions on their character simply because you are threatened by their implied weakness.
Now who knows - maybe I would have approached him and offered him help and he would have denied it out of pride. Or because he’s a stubborn asshole. Or maybe because he simply didn’t need it. See, I didn’t know because I didn’t know him… and I certainly didn’t know his story.
I once read a Facebook status that read something to the effect of, “And I didn’t give money to this homeless man because he was wearing Nikes.”
And I replied, “I once applied for welfare wearing $200 jeans. They were two years old and bought with a 50% discount back when I could afford it but I had gotten to the point where I could no longer feed myself and just needed a couple months of help. You don’t know his story and it’s presumptuous for you to make assumptions on someone’s life, struggle, story, when they are outright ASKING FOR HELP.”
Are there people out there who take advantage of the generosity of others? Of course. Are they always homeless? No. Are they always people of color? No. Are they always broke and poor? No. Greed knows no color, class, or tax bracket. But thankfully, most people are not greedy. Most people won’t aggressively go out of their way to take advantage people like us. Does it happen? Sure. Is it the norm? Not even close.
So when someone approaches you, begging for help. Someone who has shamed themselves to the point of asking a stranger for something, anything to make their every day life a little easier - don’t assume the worst. Don’t make assumptions about their character and don’t have the audacity to think you know their story.
The truth is this, at some point we will all need help. Whether it is from our friends or our families, whether it is to ask our parents with help to pay rent or a loan to buy a house or a neighbor to watch our dogs or our friends to pick up our kids - we can’t do this alone. None of us. Not you and not me. And sometimes those people need to ask for help. And sometimes they need help but are to proud or shameful to ask for it. And sometimes there are people out there who don’t have anyone. Because they left abusive homes or because all the people they loved have left. You don’t know their story. So don’t ever let anyone make you feel guilty for your empathy.
And the biggest problem is when we don’t act like we’re all on the same team. We’re all in this together and sometimes we need help and sometimes other people need help and there’s nothing wrong with asking.