how not to be a coward

I mentioned about a week ago that I was hurt deeply by an inconsiderate and cowardly act of rejection via Facebook chat. The fact that I see this interaction as a gift, for it has brought me great clarity, does little to alleviate the very real grief I’m feeling.

So I’ve been thinking about how I would have preferred all this go down, and I have a few specific thoughts for anyone wishing to change or renegotiate the terms of an arrangement or relationship:

  • Practice radical honesty. It’s far more compassionate and respectful than dishonesty and avoidance. What might this mean? If a man doesn’t want to spend time with me, I’d rather hear, “I’m really busy for a couple of weeks. How about we cool it and regroup at the end of the month?” Or “My wants and needs are changing. Can we find a time to talk about what that might mean in person?” Stop the excuses; nobody’s really going to believe that you’re sick for three weeks straight.
  • Align words and deeds. Communicating that you care about me, respect me and value my friendship — via electronic media — while ending any physical or potential romantic interaction feels incredibly hypocritical. I wouldn’t have what I consider an important relationship discussion digitally, unless I genuinely didn’t care whether I heard from that person again. Caring, respect, value, friendship — any of these would recommend a more humane approach.
  • Stick to what’s relevant. There is no good reason why any man, in the course of a break-up (or its equivalent), should feel the need to share anything about another woman with whom he spent as much time as humanly possible over a two-week period, drove hours across state lines to see and spent time with her extended family. Given his disinclination to see me, this information merely added salt to an open wound. And I didn’t need a visual.
  • Master the art of apology. In my experience, folks (particularly men) would rather indignantly deny that they’ve done anything wrong than apologize. Guess what? It’s not about whether you’ve done something wrong. If someone else feels hurt by something you did, chances are there’s a part of that you can own up to and acknowledge, then genuinely apologize for. It goes something like this, “I’m really sorry; I failed to consider how important this was to you, and I will know in the future to behave differently. I really don’t want my foolishness to get in the way of our friendship.” Practice it. Use it more often than you think you should. Trust me, it won’t kill you. It won’t even hurt…unless you’re a narcissist and value your ego above all.

And, perhaps most importantly:

  • Communicate in person. Everyone deserves the simple common courtesy and respect of hearing what might be difficult or painful news face to face. Anything less is cowardly.

The sum of our choices equals our character. I’m chalking this experience up to a valuable life lesson. I hereby re-commit myself to acting with love and compassion toward others, being my best self and drawing clear and healthy boundaries.

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About failedatforty


3 responses to “how not to be a coward

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