Posted by: Marie | January 18, 2011

(493) Those three little words

Post #493
[Private journal entry written on Sunday, August 29, 2010]

This afternoon, I received an email from Father Jim containing only three words:

“I fully understand.”

There was no salutation, no signature, just the three words.

I have no idea what to do with this. I think that means he agrees to not hug me. But, I’m not sure. Maybe it means he understands the conditions and chooses to have no more contact with me.

Photo by Martin Chen

What I do know is that he doesn’t fully understand. If he did, he would have chosen a different response, I’m sure. Well, unless he does understand and this is his way to keep me off balance. (But why would he want to do that?)

All I wanted was a simple assurance that he wouldn’t hug me. That’s all. It didn’t need to develop into all this drama. it could have been handled in two minutes with a couple of sentences. Why couldn’t he simply give that to me and be done with it?

Maybe it’s too naive of me to believe that most people are still figuring out the best way to interact with other people, that most people are looking for information and feedback, that most people welcome information that helps them be a kinder, gentler and more loving human being. Maybe it’s too naive of me to think that when people behave boorishly, it is probably because no one has spent the time and energy to point out the need for, and to teach them a better way.

If we all expect everyone to already know what behaviors are offensive, and to know how people are affected by those behaviors, to the extent that we refuse to pull someone aside and have a gentle conversation with them [because only stupid people don’t already know what we could tell them and those stupid people don’t deserve our time and energy] . . . well, we’d have much more boorish behavior in this world, especially from me

Not all of us got a great education on such matters in our childhoods. Some of us have to figure it out on our own as adults. I was giving Father Jim the benefit of the doubt . . . I wanted to believe he was open to learning. I guess I was wrong about him.

Does that mean I should stop giving everyone else the benefit of the doubt?

At any rate, I am totally baffled by Father Jim’s behavior . . . well, maybe I’m not baffled, maybe I just don’t understand how someone can respond in the dismissive way he has responded. The only explanation I can come up with is a total absence of empathy. So, to gain some perspective, I’ve turned to some trusted friends for guidance. My friends have assured me I’ve done enough, I’ve reached out enough, I’ve explained enough . . . I guess I’ll wait and see what his next move is – I’ll wait to see if he confirms the schedule I proposed – or not. Maybe I’ll never hear from him again.

I’m not willing to chase after him. I’m not going to respond to his last email because it doesn’t deserve to be dignified with a response. If he wants to do business with me, he’ll have to provide a subsequent, more respectful response.

I’m not sure which way this is going to go. I’m not sure which way I want it to go.

In an attempt to better understand where Father Jim might be coming from, I asked a friend of mine about him today. She has known him for years and knows him quite well. And, I trust her ability to assess someone’s character.

She responded with, “He is a gem of a man. He is the type of guy I’d latch onto – well, I mean . . . if he were single and if I were single. He is as good as they come. Did you know he is a millionaire? He made his fortune and doesn’t need to work. So, now he spends him time helping people who really need help. He is a gem.”

Now I’m confused. Why are the vibes I’m getting from him so inconsistent with her assessment of his character? Either I’m missing something or she is missing something. Hmmmmm . . . .

There is so much to learn about dealing with people! I wonder if it gets easier . . . ??


  1. Yeah, not responding was the right thing to do.

    It may be that the person you asked about him doesn’t have a good radar about people. He sounds like the type who goes out of his way to make a good external presentation. Also your informant sounds like she herself has some self-esteem security issues around money, and when someone makes judgments from that standpoint, it usually influences them unduly favorably toward people who are financially secure.

    • … I didn’t mean to sound dismissive of your friend; sorry about that. :-) It’s just been my repeated experience that even really good people are often swayed by financial success, esp. if they themselves equate safety with money, which a lot of people do.

    • Hey David –

      By the way, I didn’t take what you said about my friend as dismissive . . . no worries, I thought you were just expressing your understanding of things.

      And, you probably are right (or close to right) on about why she is influenced differently from how I am. I’m sure her sensitivities affect her perceptions and mine affect mine.

      – Marie

  2. Hi Marie, I think his response makes sense – he is grandiose and so needs to make a big deal of things (I know of which I speak!) – that “fully”.

    As to the differing assessment of your friend – I think she has different issues to you. She shrugs off being patronised and you (and someone else not a million miles from this one typing) doesn’t. She isn’t look at the way that he does things – with condescension. It may be that she sees herself as one down and so if she is treated well by those one up she feels good about it. These are wild and quite possibly irresponsible speculations on my part.

    I think you are right about being optimistic about people. My caveats (learned the hard way) are that – it is not always up to me to help them, some people take a lot of work, some people I can’t help (you are not god Evan, get used to it).

    • Hey, Evan –

      You have a good point about Father Jim . . . he might make things complicated because keeping simple things simple wouldn’t serve his purpose.

      Maybe my friend isn’t sensitive about disrespectful people like I am — maybe my injuries cause my skin to be sensitive and she doesn’t have the same injuries. I’m sure she has her own injuries and they may be ones with which I cannot relate well.

      It seems like an uplifting thing to invest time and energy into people who want to learn a better way . . . but, when we run into someone who doesn’t, it makes sense to spend our time and energy in other ways (and God grant me the serenity to know the difference . . . )

      – Marie

  3. Marie, I think you actually do a pretty wonderful job of navigating all of these complex issues. It’s not easy for anybody. But as you grow to truly trust your own instincts (there I go, banging on about that again), these things will come easier I believe.
    Sorry, but my vibe about this guy stands. Doesn’t sound like a great guy, and most people that make a point to tell you about all of their good works are not such great people–just an observation I’ve found to be a truism.
    Most folks who are really grounded, trustworthy people are fairly humble, good listeners, and put you at ease. They tend not to have agendas, tend to be “what you see is what you get”.
    Can other people be “helped?” Yes and no.
    It’s not our jobs to help everyone, as Evan pointed out.
    Our job is to help ourselves and through that, potentially be an example and affect change through how we relate to the world.
    Everyone helps themselves and i’ve never met anyone who could save a drowning person that wasn’t trying to swim a little bit on their own (I mean that metaphorically, obviously).
    Even god only helps those who help themselves, know what I mean?

    • Hey, Aaron –

      I appreciate the encouraging words . . . it does feel like I’m getting better with the navigation . . . I’m getting a better feel for what works and doesn’t work for me, and I’m learning to not be apologetic about it.

      I hear what you are saying about not being able to help everyone . . . I just really appreciate when someone helps me do better. I appreciate feedback.

      – Marie

  4. People really are all different with their own experiences and ways of perceiving. I would have taken his response as meaning that he completely understands that he is not allowed to hug me. But then I don’t know him at all and you do. I think it’s good that you are taking this issue seriously and doing whatever you need to do to take care of yourself.

    • Hey, EH –

      That was my first thought — I think because I like to give people the benefit of the doubt. Then, I remembered back to my experiences with Mark (and others) when I have not gotten a clear assurance that the boundary is understood and will be honored — in those cases, it came back to bite me.

      So, I wanted his response to be clear . . . and it was not clear enough despite me asking for a clear response. That let me know he probably would not honor my boundary.

      Thanks for the kind words!

      – Marie

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