Thursday, February 20, 2014

Who are You? (Thinking deep thoughts)

When people show you who they are, believe them.
This has always been one of my favorite quotes, and it seems simple, but as with most impactful words, it’s anything but. When I hear these words, I think of that person that we all have, deep down inside, the one that we might keep hidden—but even if we don’t, it’s the one that reveals our true self, the one we try to protect.

For some, that true self is a rotting core at the center of a really pretty package. For others it’s a quiet warrior inside the wallflower. Or it could be a heart of compassion inside a loud, angry shell. But almost without exception, that person presented to the world is just a small part of a whole person. And that small part is magnified when it’s online, behind that glass screen that’s covered by curtains when everything’s not in place.
I recently read a post by a woman who was going through trouble in her marriage. Long story short: she had a sketchy past that’s not entirely relevant, met a great guy, they got married and built a life together. Over the years he became jealous, possessive of her. She, a normally outgoing social butterfly type became more withdrawn. When they talked about it he revealed that he was insecure, always had been, and was terrified of losing her. She decided to work through their issues together, to not let his possessiveness rule her life or drive her decisions, and to move forward at her husband’s side instead of letting his revelation of insecurity drive her away.
The feedback that she received on this post was mixed; some were happy for her, for trying to make her marriage work instead of turning and walking away. But the overwhelming majority of the responses told her to run, that he was an abuser that his behavior was classic scenario, rapidly progressing, black-and-white abuse. That it was just a matter of time before he escalated. She was destined for black eyes and broken bones, nervous laughs while she told stories to emergency room nurses to account for her injuries.
But why? Everyone has a history, quirks and insecurities that make our relationships complicated and messy. I can only speak from my own life, and I know for a fact that my life is nothing if not messy and complicated and nuanced. The mistakes we make, the face we show to the world is not always a reflection of our true self—because sometimes being yourself is a scary place to be. And an insecure man—or woman—is not always an abuser; it’s someone who feels pain and fears loss. Sometimes, yes, this can drive a person to be abusive. But isn’t it a case of some people are abusive and some people are insecure but not all abusive people are insecure and not all insecure people are abusive. Sometimes, people are just assholes.
I’ve seen men quickly labeled as abusers with little or no cause—it’s better to be safe than sorry! But as the mother of a son, this worries me. Life is seldom black and white; there are so many gray areas, so many of us stumbling around trying our best to make a good life and be happy. We try to do the right things and not cause anyone else pain.
But the next time someone shows me who they are, I’m going to remember that online, they’re showing me an existence behind glass, something presented for a purpose and not truly a slice of life. I’m going to peek behind the curtains instead and see what’s really in there.


  1. Much wisdom here, Mari. I have nothing to add. (And, for me, that's rare!)

    1. Thanks for the kind words, Dee Dee ... I still feel these thoughts swirling around. Trying to wrap my head around all the ways that the internet has changed the way I interact--the way everyone interacts.

  2. I agree with Dee Dee. Insightful.