Sunday, July 25, 2004

Damned If You Do, Damned If You Don't

It’s been my experience that many Filipinos are afraid to directly hurt other people. It can be something as simple as declining to go to a person’s birthday party (and saying something like “I’ll come late” instead) to something as complex as breaking up a relationship (“I’ll stay with him/her even if I don’t love him/her anymore since his/her grades have dropped whenever I’m away from him/her”). It doesn’t matter that in the long run, the other person will get hurt, just as long as it doesn’t originate from them.

What’s wrong with this kind of mentality is that the other person will inevitably get hurt. In the case of the person who invited you to their birthday party, he/she will be hurt just as much when he/she doesn’t see you around when the occasion arrives. Yes, you won’t be there to see the other person get hurt, but he/she will get hurt nonetheless (and because he/she suffers from the same mentality as you, he/she won’t mention it the next time you meet). With the other situation, you’re giving the other person false hope. When you finally get fed up with him/her and break up, the other person will suffer the more grievous wound. You can rationalize that you’ve been the martyr all this time by staying in the relationship even when you’ve already given up on the person at an earlier date. Unfortunately, your former significant other doesn’t have the same kind of rationalization to blunt the blow.

With the former situation, you’re just being plain selfish. You’re not removing the other person’s pain, merely moving yourself away from the scene so that you don’t see it. It’s a kind of self-delusion. You think that “if I don’t see it, it doesn’t happen”. Unfortunately, that’s not how the world works. You’re merely lying to yourself.

With the latter situation, there is a kind of concern for the well-being of the other person. Unfortunately, it’s a short-sighted view of things. It’s short-sighted in the sense that it only concerns the present, as if the future will solve its own problems. And since you’re concerned with the short term, you take the easy route, the one that has no immediate consequences. Unfortunately, as I said before, you nurture a sense of false hope with the other person. Usually, the longer you associate with a certain person, the more difficult it is to severe your connection with him/her. In this case, the other person will love you more as time passes by, increasing the pain he/she will feel when you inevitably break up. At this point, it’s a “damned if you, damned if you don’t” situation. You’ll hurt the other person irregardless of when you break up. Since inflicting pain stops being an issue here, the real question is how much pain are you willing to inflict. If you break up with the other person sooner (or even not agreeing to get into the relationship in the first place), sure, it’ll hurt the other person, but not as much when he/she has gotten quite acquainted with you. If you make the break up later, the pain you’ll inflict will be much, much more, although such repercussions aren’t immediately apparent at the time you made the decision.

Of course that’s not to say that all our roads of action lead to pain and suffering. However, there is truth to the cliché saying “you can’t please everybody”. And similarly, you will end up hurting other people inevitably (since we are human after all, and not perfect creatures). That being the case, we should stop being afraid of hurting other people, especially if it comes at the expense not only of our lives but of the other person’s as well. True friends will forgive you for your directness and flaws, while with less-forgiving people, it’s only a matter of time before they get mad at you for one reason or another. It’s always been my philosophy “better now rather than later” because I do form bonds with people the longer I get acquainted with them. If they can’t take me as I am right now, then they’ll probably be less tolerant of the skeletons I keep in my closet.

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