“When you’re taught to love everyone, to love your enemies, then what value does that place on love?” ~ Marilyn Manson
I get hectored by some people because I’m not necessarily always willing to get along with everyone who happens to be involved in my social circle. There are some occasions where I just don’t see any benefit to letting bygones be bygones and leaving the past behind.
Some of the people who I grew up with would have me believe that this is a sign of immaturity. They feel that as we’re no longer in school we should all be able to get along as though we had no history.
It seems to me that a lot of people have a fundamental misunderstanding of what represents maturity in dealing with discord.
Sure as we get older we finesse our understanding of the ways of polite society, we come to understand that we really don’t need to go around expressing our negative opinions of people all the time, and in fact doing so can actually make us look quite foolish.
However, it isn’t the need for the social grace to cover a general dislike of someone who I happen to have to see occasionally to which I’m objecting. It’s the insistence by some people that I need to gloss over a long history of unacceptable behaviour for the sake of keeping the peace.
The most recent example of this was in relation to guy I used to know named Mark.
I met Mark one day at school when I was about fourteen. He decided he liked me but I wasn’t interested. Which would have been fair enough, except that he developed a strange and unhealthy obsession with me. For the next seven years he took a violent hatred to anyone I displayed even a passing interest in, and was apparently angered every time I broke up with anybody that I didn’t immediately see the error of my ways and beg him to have me.
This carried on being, admittedly, only mildly annoying for about seven years. However, after I moved away to university and Mark stayed behind to repeat year thirteen he started dating my sister.
While they were together he stole a stack of childhood pictures of me of our house, and asked my sister to dress up in my clothes and have sex with him in my bed.
When my sister finally broke up with him because I showed her messages that he sent me bragging about cheating on her, he proceeded to spend the next couple of years telling me every time I would see him socially that being unfaithful to her was the best thing he’d ever done.
But the last straw came when, on my birthday night out to which he hadn’t been invited, he launched an unprovoked assault on me and was dragged away by three other men moments before he sucker punched me in the face.
After that I couldn’t see any sufficient reason for feigning any particular enthusiasm for, or even indifference towards, his company. Given his track record forgiving and forgetting seemed an irresponsible strategy, especially given that I’ve never received anything like an apology. Mark has in fact since sought to rewrite history, even for those who were present every step of the way.
Another prime example is when I allowed an old friend’s new boyfriend to go with me on the a trip that I took shortly after my grandad died, with money that he’d left me specifically so that I could go away and see some of the things that he had while serving in the army. While we were away this guy cheated on my friend most nights, often with prostitutes, some of whom were under age.
When we returned to the UK I told my friend what had happened. She decided nevertheless to continue the relationship and insisted that if we were to remain friends I would need to support her in this.
If she’d forgiven the guy for cheating on her with other women then I’d have told her that I thought she was crazy but that at the end of the day it was her own funeral. But he cheated on her with children. And she decided to be okay with it. Which speaks volumes to her own morality.
It ended our ten-year friendship.
Here again I was chided by mutual friends who felt that they now could no longer comfortably add both myself and the paedophile to their guest lists without fear of bringing tension to the air.
Again I was subjected to admonishment on how maturity necessitates the ability to get along with all people, to know how to conduct oneself without causing a scene.
“I like to think that I can get along with anybody,” they would say, “I don’t understand why some people can’t just do the same.”
But I’m afraid this tests the notion of forgiving and forgetting to the point of insanity. To me those who fail to judge anybody appear to be not wise but cowardly, or clueless. There are some parts of behaviour that need to be condemned. There are some actions that, when taken by anybody, should always attract censure, and where overlooked should convey guilt by association.
We should not expect others to keep the peace at the cost of their own peace of mind or personal safety. Social exclusion is often times the only effective sanction against those who seem to posses no internal morality.
There is no virtue in being a friend to all people if this leads you to upbraid those who only wish to stay out of harms way. In fact this only gives you the appearance of having substituted soundbite morality for actually knowing how to differentiate right from wrong, and then stand up for it.
And if you’re genuinely willing to be friends with anybody, how much can your friendship really be worth anyway? If you refuse to discuss any uncomfortable issues how can you ever hope to have anything real? Genuine relationships need a sturdy foundation. A foundation that cannot be built on empty platitudes in a space where no-one ever speaks their mind openly.
So to the all the would-be peacemakers, I urge you to reconsider. To drop the affected forgiveness and choose your friends just a little more carefully. I’m sure you’ll come to find the harmony you require in a more exclusive social scene.