Wednesday, December 30, 2009


I ran into an old acquaintance several weeks ago. It was a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving and I was at one of those open houses given by a friend. My friend admits to killing two birds with one stone – to celebrate the new house with friends and to get through a huge number of social obligations before the beginning of the holiday madness season set in. You’ve all been to one of these parties. You know the host and anywhere from as few as a handful to as many as most of the people attending. You get to catch up with people you may not have seen in a while, share some laughs with good friends, and even meet one or two new and interesting people.

This old acquaintance, though, was a bit different. She’s someone I knew a long time ago, and haven’t seen or interacted with in years. When we first met, around 20 or so years ago, I didn’t like her. How’s that for blunt? I’m not going to dress it up and try to make myself sound better. I didn’t like her. I thought she was superior and arrogant, and more than a little mean. What did I base this on? Her non-verbal behaviors, the tone of her voice, the manner in which she carried herself. More basic than that, it was instinct.

We didn’t interact much in our acquaintance. We operated in different circles so the times when we met up were quite few and far between. But the behaviors never really changed. The first time we met I recall this woman almost quite literally looking down her nose at me. I remember it because the visual was so vivid that I remember thinking “so this is what that looks like.” To be fair to her, perhaps she has reason to be arrogant and superior. I am willing to submit that she may certainly be smarter or more educated than I. Perhaps she’s a morally better person, using her time and energy in ways that benefit others. Maybe she’s gifted with a more giving nature, more patience, more consideration. All that may be true, and yet when I met up with her again at this party, my assessment remained the same.

Some of you might be thinking about the power of the first impression, and perhaps that’s what’s influencing me here. Some of you may be thinking that I’m the one who has the issue, not her. Maybe. Yet when I watched this woman interact at this open house, I saw those same qualities in her that I experienced when I first met her. And, when we briefly spoke, this time the superiority and arrogance were all too plain to see. After she walked away, a friend who had been standing with us and did not know this woman actually said, “Ouch! What’s her deal?”

I don’t know what her deal is. And I realized that it isn’t even the important lesson here. The important lesson for me was ‘instinct’ and being willing to trust your own. I’ve attempted over time to change my opinion of this person because I have friends who really like her. The logic is that if these people that I like and respect, actually like this other person – well, then, she must be okay. The problem must be my judgment, right? No. My judgment is valid and my opinion has merit. Yet, I’ve been doubting my instincts.

When I think it through, I realize that there have been a lot of times when I have chosen that path. My ‘gut’ told me one thing, yet I talked myself out of it. Why? Others’ opinions, ‘logic’, take your pick. The point is I haven’t trusted myself and I’m learning that THAT is the real mistake. When I look back even casually, I can see that the bigger ‘mistakes’ in my life have resulted from not following my gut instincts, from taking other peoples’ truth as being more true than my own, or their knowledge or opinion as being better than my own. But the reality is your gut, if you follow it, rarely points you in the wrong direction. It tells you what is true, what is right, what is logical. The trick is learning to trust it and having the courage to follow it.

1 comment:

  1. This has been a challenge for me throughout life. Opinions are one thing, but decisions I don't care to make because I might make a mistake. As you say the issue is trusting yourself. If we let doubt or fear control us either can lead to indecision. For me the key is to act after reasonable deliberation. I'm learning it's ok to make mistakes, but oh how I hate to be "wrong."