Saturday, September 15, 2018

Civil behavior is key to adulthood

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Adult relationships are complicated, aren’t they? We are the problem. We are making them complicated. Let me explain.

People disagree. People argue. People can be angry at one another. People can hurt others—quite deeply. And people can still be civil even after all these things have occurred. It’s a choice.

Civil, you say? After this person did *insert whatever crime they committed against you*? Yes. And if it is egregious enough that you can’t or shouldn’t be cordial, you can simply ignore the other person when required. You can walk away. It’s a choice.

“Hello. How are you? I’m good, too.”

It’s that easy to be civil. And it’s a choice.

The problem becomes a matter of pride, and it is nothing to be proud of.

“I keep it real. I keep it 100.”

Being civil has nothing to do with ‘keeping it real.’ Is there any need to engage in a screaming match every single time you encounter a person who has wronged you? You’re going to be screaming nonstop for the rest of your life, and that’s me ‘keeping it real.’ That’s the reality of it. Mind you, I’m not saying you shouldn’t stick up for yourself or you shouldn’t confront someone who has wronged you. You absolutely should stand up for yourself. I’m learning how to do that this many years into the game. I have never had a problem standing up for others, but I have always had a problem standing up for myself. What I’m saying is there is no need to confront the same person every time you see them again until one of you dies. You’re not accomplishing anything, no matter how ‘100’ you think it is. It’s a choice. Keeping it real doesn’t mean what you think it means. It means being honest. It means you stand for something. It means you stick to your convictions without wavering. It doesn’t mean walking around screaming at everyone around you until you fall over dead. It means knowing when to walk away and when to stand your ground.


In the past couple of years, I had several people block me on social media outlets. I was grateful. These people screamed this phrase to no end, but they had no idea what it means. When I confronted them with an issue, they called me ‘two-faced.’ Two-faced isn’t being confronted by a person. Two-faced is when a friend purposely does something behind your back to hurt you. Don’t mistake being civil for pretending to be a friend. Don’t mistake being polite for being a friend. They are not one and the same. Having polite conversation in passing is being civil. A polite wave or nod is being civil. Being a friend to someone is so much more than that. So much more. You can have an outright screaming match with a person and still be civil the next time you see them. That’s not being two-faced. That’s not pretending to be a friend. It’s being civil. If you believe a person is truly your friend, and they stab you in the back, behind your back—that’s two-faced. If you know a person doesn’t like you or you know they have a grievance with you but they still offer polite conversation or a quick nod when they pass you, that’s being civil. That’s what adults strive for—civility. You must do it at your job. You must do it in certain social situations. You’re going to find that most of your daily activities require you to be civil. If you can’t be civil or the offense was particularly heinous, simply walk away.


This is similar to the two-faced explanation in that being civil isn’t being wishy-washy. It’s simply being civil. Or it could be the beginning of forgiveness or an attempt to reconcile differences. It’s what happens in adult relationships, or else no friendship would ever last. No relationship of any sort would ever last, because conversation must start somewhere in order to fix problems. All relationships have problems. If you believe someone extending an olive branch is being wishy-washy, you’re going to find that your relationships don’t last long-term. This does not mean you need to keep giving abusive people chances, no matter how many times they try to mend fences. That’s an entirely different conversation, but forgiving an abusive person should not mean giving them another chance to abuse you. Still, being civil to someone you don’t like or who has wronged you, whether you have forgiven them or not, is not being wishy-washy. It’s being an adult.   

Let’s talk about forgiveness for a moment.

It is indeed possible to forgive someone for things they have done to you—no matter how egregious. Forgiveness doesn’t necessarily mean a person wants to mend a relationship. Sometimes it does. Sometimes it doesn’t. It is entirely possible for someone to do the absolute worst things to you and still forgive them for it. Whether a person decides to attempt to remain friends after forgiving them varies, as it should. It has no bearing on whether or not you were hurt before, and forgiveness does not negate what a person has done to you or suggest the offense wasn’t that serious. Forgiveness is an acknowledgment of the things they have done and a willingness to make peace with it. It does not mean forgetting. It does not necessarily mean rebuilding a friendship and allowing a person to hurt you again. It also doesn’t necessarily rule out the possibility of some degree of friendship. Again, don’t mistake friendship and civility. They are not one and the same. A person can be civil whether or not they have chosen to forgive the other person. A person can also be willing to forgive someone and attempt to mend the friendship on some level. This has nothing to do with “keeping it real.” It has nothing to do with being two-faced, and it certainly isn’t being wishy-washy. It’s being an adult and understanding adult relationships, friendships, and civility.

Throughout my life, I have forgiven people for things that did not deserve to be forgiven. I’ve given people many more chances than they should have received, and I have learned from it. Here is what I’ve learned:

It doesn’t make you a bad person for refusing to forgive someone who has hurt you many times over or hurt you very deeply, no matter how many times they apologize. Some apologies aren’t really apologies. Some apologies are actually a trap. It’s okay to refuse to forgive someone, and it is possible to be civil—even if civility is simply ignoring the person in social situations. I’ve learned to walk away from repeated apologists who refuse to change their bad behavior and people who refuse to apologize.

It doesn’t make you a pushover or stupid to forgive people who hurt you. This was a tough one for me to figure out, because I have forgiven people who offered empty apologies. That doesn’t reflect on you. It reflects on them.

It’s okay to be open to a discussion to resolve issues with people who hurt you—or not. It is important to know when it’s time to realize a person isn’t going to change and walk away. It’s also important to stop forgiving abuse. I’m open to discussing issues with someone willing to listen to how their behavior has hurt me, accept that they have hurt me, and apologize for it. I am not entertaining people who say, “Let’s just forget about it and move on.” Apologies and a frank discussion of how certain things aren’t acceptable is required. I am not willing to forgive repeated abuse, and I am not willing to forgive people who don’t acknowledge abusive behavior. I’m learning I deserve to be treated fairly. If you’ve read my latest release, The Lesser of Two Evils, you are familiar with the character Peter. I am not willing to forgive someone like Peter, and civility would be avoidance.

I can be civil to everyone, even when it means simply ignoring someone. I am also willing to call out someone for hurting others, and I am learning to call out others for hurting me rather than taking it on the chin. This is a tough one for me, but I’m learning it’s okay to stand up for myself. I’m learning that I don’t deserve to be treated poorly. I’m learning, but at the same time I recognize that civility after confrontation is important—up until the point where it becomes a safety issue. That’s where I must draw the line and stick to it.

Adult relationships aren’t as complicated as we make them. Yes, things aren’t always black and white and there is a huge gray area in many things. It’s still not complicated. Confront those who hurt you. Be open to discussion and an apology. Be open to apologizing when you’re wrong. Learn to forgive when it’s appropriate, and learn to walk away when it is not. Decide what behavior is not acceptable to you, and stick to it. Don’t allow people to cross that line after you’ve decided. Be civil after you’ve confronted someone, even if the only way you can be civil is to walk away.

That’s it.