The reality is.... I want to be liked.
There. I've typed it. I want to be liked.
Now, I'm generally confused, frankly, when it turns out that I am well-liked. I'm a thoroughly ordinary person and not someone anyone would ever describe as "warm," but apparently, I'm likable. And I like being liked.
Even more confusing, though, is when I'm not liked. This is true when the reasons that I am not liked are not readily apparent to me. It is even more so when the reasons I am not liked are totally apparent to me.
Yesterday, I found out that someone who had previously liked me, likes me no longer.
And I am not, in any way, discussing romantic interest here.
I was un-friended on Facebook.
And I cried.
Now, I regularly go through my list of Facebook friends and remove people. This, however, is a result of not having had any contact with them in 3 or 4 years, not receiving their status updates in my newsfeed because I never look at their page, and the fact that when they get married and change their last name, I don't notice, because I've forgotten what their maiden was in the first place.
Psychologists posit that human beings are incapable of maintaining active friendships with more than 200 people. This strikes me as fascinating as I cannot manage active friendships with even 20 people. My definition of friendship, however, is extremely specific, and whereas most people might call someone they've met a few times and whose name they struggle to remember a "casual acquaintance," if I'm not inclined to spend time with you one-on-one outside of work, school, church, or any other defined context where we are forced into one another's presence, no matter how much I might like you, enjoy your company, and delight in you as a person, you're an acquaintance.
I have approximately 35 friends. I have closer to 250 acquaintances.
And so it happened recently, that I had a chance to spend some time with a few acquaintances, who for reasons of geography I had not yet met in person. It seemed, initially, that they all had friend potential.
And as we were hanging out, a few of these individuals began verbally attacking another person who is, in fact, a very dear friend of mine.
Now, my immediate desire was to respond.
The problem is, as anyone who knows me can attest, I have a voice.
Yes, I am loud. But it's more about tone. And how I carry myself when I speak. There is a definiteness to my speech that leads some to see me as arrogant when I talk about topics I enjoy. When that voice, however, is directed at a specific person, and its a voice of displeasure....Well, it's been known to cause people to dissolve into tears and leave their self-esteem in tatters.
And because these were acquaintances who, I had thought, had friend potential, I chose the next best course of action.
"If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all," my mother, kindergarten, and various facets of society have drilled into me.
So, I said nothing. Because what I wanted to say was far from nice.
I felt, however, that some response was demanded. Not a single person present seemed interested in addressing what had happened, and I felt it needed to be acknowledged for what it was. So, I sent the group a collective message, privately, on Facebook.
It read as follows (with minor changes):
I was rather dismayed that dinner Saturday night turned into an hour-long character assassination of one of your office mates.
It was quite disheartening to see this side of your personalities.
I have not known this individual as long as any of you, nor, as you know, do I work in the same office. However, I have developed a rapport with this person, and we have talked about various topics outside of work.
In the times we've spoken, your group has been mentioned at most 2-3 times. In those brief mentions, when any of your names has been mentioned, this person has never spoken ill of any of you. This person has, actually, spoken quite highly of all of you.
I was incredibly disappointed to learn that away from work you are all individuals of such poor character. I expected far better from each from you.
I wish you all luck on your continued life journeys, and I genuinely hope the behavior I witnessed Saturday night was a complete and utter aberration.
Now this, to me, was straightforward, honest, truthful, and still very kind. Particularly when compared to my initial reaction, squelched at dinner, which included telling each one of them what fuckbag assholes I consider them to be. I chose not to go that route. (And people think I don't have a verbal filter! If only they knew....)
It is the case that I was disappointed. It is the case that I expected far better from each of them. It is the case that the behaviors they exhibited did lead me to question not only their professionalism in their jobs, but their character as well.
It is also the case that thinking of them as fuckbag assholes was purely reactionary and I actually respect each of them too much to call them such names in a moment of anger. Thus, I retreated and chose to address it at a later date, in a more adult fashion.
And then, I was un-friended by one of them. Un-friended for reminding someone of the first rule of kindergarten: If you can't something nice, don't say anything at all.
My sister has a sign on her refrigerator door. It implores people to THINK before they speak:
If what you have to say does not meet at least two of these criterion, best to say nothing at all.
Calling people fuckbag assholes is not true, helpful, inspiring, necessary, or kind.
Telling people their decision to verbally eviscerate someone, who is not present and cannot defend themselves, is speaking truth. It's necessary. And I believe it's kind to all involved. Is it helpful or inspiring? If they make kinder choices in the future, maybe.
But even if no one else gets anything out of it, I know that I chose to act with integrity. And if that costs me an acquaintance or two....well, at least I know who my true friends are, and that I myself have acted as true friend, in accordance with my beliefs.
And that matters more.