A LETTER TO MY SON ON TOXIC PEOPLE
Son, living in a world full of people is living in a world full of contradictions. You will have people loving you and people hating you. You will have people liking you and people irking you. You will have people who think the world of you and people who think the worst of you. People will adore you and people will vilify you. You can't escape from such contradictions, even from the same people. So, people will be people and to live in a people-less world is most unthinkable.
A world of people is what we cannot live without. But there are some people that we are better off doing without. This category is rare but exist they do. They are there to make whatever you do harder to do. And even if you do what they expect you to do, it is still done in a way that they think they can do better than you. You can consider them as the torn in your side, the dust in your eye or the pain in your derrière. However you wish them well, whatever you do for them with pure intention, they will still take it with a fistfull of sodium chloride and accuse you of vain pretension.
They indeed have eyes for you. But lest you get carried away, these eyes are sight for sore eyes. Sometimes they are jaundiced eyes or eyes of rage for reasons unrelated to your present but more connected to your past. Somehow they can never forget. On this, their memory is superb. You can think of them as having the memory capacity of the proverbial elephant. But strangely, this is exclusively, even begrudgingly, reserved for events that happened long time ago.
With you, they just can't see what you are now or what you will be in the future. They only judge you for what you were then. It is like time stood still for them when it comes to you. And they only see you as you were in the past and everything you do now or promise to do in the future is judged through the prism of your past mistakes. What they therefore lack in imagination, they more than make it up for having a memory that cannot let go.
For others, they don't even need a reason to hate you. It just comes naturally like how a drop of water will slide down a duck's back or a lump of bullshit will come out of a bull's end. It is like they are born with this unusual genetic mutation and over the years, the mutation grows into character distortion. It is therefore as natural to them as the color of one's hair, skin or eyes. The difference here is that with color, you can dye the hair, alter the pigment, or put on color lenses.
But with such genetic mutation, it is often a cradle-to-grave kind of thing. So please do not waste your time looking for the cause or origin of such toxic people. Unlike looking for a needle in a haystack, where at the very least the presence of a needle is assured, such search for better understanding is like looking for WMD in Iraq. Alas not only will you not find what you are looking for, you may be rudely shocked by a grouchy old bearded man squirrelling out of a dark and smelly hole to torment you even further.
My son, these are the people who will challenge you to the core. Some will break you. Others will bruise you. Still others will humiliate you. Ego wise, they will miniaturize you. Spirit wise, they will seek to de-spiritualize you. But whatever it is, don't ever let them marginalize, antagonize and pulverize you. You are worth much more than that. You are more resilient than you think. You are built from the toughest material this world has ever made.
Remember, don't confront them. Don't match them word for word, malice for malice, hate for hate, and fist for fist. The greater man does the humblest thing. He is defined not by the coarseness of his anger, the swiftness of his fist or the wittiness of his insults. He is a man who takes it all in and then transforms it all within before it goes all out. It goes in with bitterness but it comes out in sweet fragrance. It enters in hopelessness but goes out in cheerfulness. Such a man knows how to transform hate into understanding, grudge into patience, and anger into empathy.
But still, you are only human and let no one or books tell you otherwise. Dealing with such people will always wear you down and tire you out. You will get angry, disappointed and even disillusioned. Sometimes, you may even harbor thoughts of vengeance against them. It bears repeating that you are only human and you can't be blamed for being one.
In all this, you will have your time of ambivalence, struggling with the logic of what I had said about turning the other cheek and what the world will tell you about an eye for an eye. But trust me, an eye for an eye only makes the world half blind. But turning the other cheek hurts the slapper more than the cheek. The hand that seeks revenge will only "succeed" by transferring the pain from his hand to his heart. It will never go away. It just undergoes a change of address. In fact the physical satisfaction of the slap will not heal the emotional pain of the hurt, so to speak.
It is said that the only way you win over your enemy is to make him a friend. And you ought to always bear that in mind. Your enemy is a friend waiting to be discovered. So, don't react when you can refrain and don't fight back when it is within your power to do what is right. The greater power rests on the one who overlooks rather than overreacts and enduring peace belongs to the one who forgives rather than hates.
You will discover all these truths over time and even through trials and errors. But discover them you will. And when you apply them to your life, you will find a lasting transformation in yourself that changes the way you see the world and the people in it.
In fact, you will come to a point of seeing beyond the hurt that you suffer to the hurt that your enemy suffers. You will see how his pain is deeper than yours. With this understanding, you will be able to genuinely reach out to him. For the more you understand, the more you are able to forgive.
But son, before I end, here is a note of caution. There will be an exceptional few, maybe only one or maybe none, who will remain your enemy for what seems like a lifetime. They are the people who are generally unrepentant and savagely opportunistic. And no matter how you extend your hand of friendship to them, they will rebuff it. Or worse, they will shake it with one hand and stab you in your back with the other. These people will be a challenge to your faith in humanity. And there is little you can do about it.
But remember, people are people and most of them will surprise you in ways you will regret deeply if you react unthinkingly in the heat of the moment. So, walk away while you can because once the deed is done, you may never be able to walk away from it. In the end, don't go sleepless over them. Theirs is not your fight. Let time or circumstances be their teacher.
Hopefully, they will change. If not, keep a wary arm's length from them. If you are unable to avoid them, don't let their conduct or words infect or embitter you. This will of course take practice and I will always be there to be your target practice. So my son, resolve in your heart to be open to and hopeful of all things. People will always be people and somehow the worst of them always makes the best of us, that is, if we deal with them honorably, patiently and with understanding. For if the prodigal son or the thief at Calvary can repent, then no one on this earth is beyond redemption – even if it takes close to a lifetime to see that happen. Cheerz.