First published May 2021
Not too long ago, I was having a heart to heart conversation with a very close friend. I was telling her of a betrayal I had suffered at the hands of someone I trusted very much. She was shocked by what I was telling her and asked me why I never explained my side of the story to all involved – she would go on to explain that had she been in my situation, she would expose the lies of my old friend and her toxic traits. She was angry and did not understand why I was not – it was at this point that I explained to her that for years I was angry, hurt, confused and traumatised by what had happened. But what hurt the most was how quickly the people she lied to about me believed her – so I asked my friend why I should explain myself to people who would easily believe the worst about me without looking at my character over the years? She was adamant that she would have still explained her side to all involved – and I would later explain to her that she is entitled to do that, but over the years, I have come to know that people listen and understand what they want to.
I had wanted to tell my side of the story and for years I was angry and confused – looking back, the reason I did not tell my side of the story was because I was afraid no one would believe me and that I would make things worse. But as the years rolled by and I began to understand myself and the world around me, I realised that there was so much power in walking away without explaining anything to anyone. If the people in my life had decided to listen to someone else’s account on who I was then that was their choice to make and in this instance, I was happy to respect their choice. My friend said she understood why I did not want to explain myself but still maintained she would have said something and that was also her choice, and I respected that. Later that day as I thought on my conversation with her, I realised that when expressing our experiences, we must choose carefully who we speak to. If we have people that are willing to listen to understand then that’s great! But my issue is with talking to people who have already made up their minds and will never choose to understand. These are the very same people who make it seem like you are arguing or being overly sensitive every time you try to explain yourself.
A few years ago, someone I knew found she was feeling faint from very little physical activity – this person explained that they were chronically anaemic due to a genetic issue so they started taking iron supplements like they usually do – but this did not make her feel better this time around. Weeks later, they would go to see their doctor and that was when it was discovered that this person was having other conditions. Fast forward a few weeks and she was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease and referred to an endocrinologist to start her treatment. When she talked about this life changing event in her life, she also recalled painful incidents with her friends that left her with trust issues. While she was on treatment – one of the medication she was on gave her a bad reaction. The first two weeks on the medication made her itch – she recounts how she would scratch her self until she had groves on her arms. Around this same time, one of her friends was throwing a party, however, come the day of the party, she was unable to attend due to how itchy she was. So she explained that she would not be able to make it – she recalls how the conversation changed after declining to attend. She was made to feel so bad that she took photos of her arms to show her friends. After the party, one friend took to social media with a post that made her feel that shots had been fired at her!
This lady would explain that what hurt her the most was that the person that posted on social media was someone who had health issues herself and had on many occasions declined to attend events – she had always supported her in those instances. However when the tables were turned, this friend did not extend the same grace she had always received. I asked her what made her feel the shots were directed at her – she explained that when she spoke of her condition to this friend – said friend would tell her flippantly that the condition of this lady was something she had also experienced and it was no big deal! That one comment made her realise that all this while she had been sharing how she was feeling and her diagnosis but this friend was not listening – she had simply compared the experience of another person to her own and decided that it was not serious enough because her experience was not. However, this person was going through a life threatening autoimmune condition that was affecting her life dramatically. She came to the conclusion that when it came to her experiences, these group of friends were not open to listen to her reasons for the choices she made – she walked away without explaining why!
A reader recently got in touch, about how a family member had abused him when he was a little boy, after I wrote about why we are mean to other people’s children- he explained that he was left in the care of this family member when both of his parents were away for work. He recalled how this relative abused him verbally and physically – the neglect and trauma he suffered with this relative would shape the person he would grow to become. He shared how certain words, sounds and situations would trigger him – he would freeze unable to function for sometime until he is able to calm himself. For him, the worst part of his story was that years later, when he went back to live with his parents, every time he tried to tell his parents of his experience with this relative, they would always shut him down and advise him that it was all in the past and he should move past it. To him, his parents never wanted to listen and that destroyed his relationship with them. From reading his story, I could see that his parents, out of guilty, refused to listen to their son and therefore contributing to his trauma. He explained that he was now going through therapy and finally accepting that it was not his fault he was abandoned and abused and certainly not responsible for his parents’ guilt. However, one thing it taught him was to never explain who he was when people were not willing to listen – even in therapy, he is finding it hard to share his side of the story.
Sometimes we go through things which may or may not be our fault and we simply need some one to listen and understand where we are coming from – and I understand that. However, the reality is, most people do not care about your side of the story – they have already decided before they hear what you have to say. Learn to be okay with your side of the story not being heard – the truth may never come out and you may never be vinidicated, but at least it gives you an idea of how people in your life view you. When people truly respect you, they will give you a chance to explain yourself to understand you and some people will never require an explanation from you – because they understand you and that even if you made a mistake, you are human and no one is perfect. In the same way, we should learn to listen to all sides of the story before making our minds up about people – most times, what we hear first about people is never the true or full story anyway.
Thank you for getting in touch and sharing your experiences – please continue to share your experiences so we can effect the change we need.