Alternate Title: The Way In Which I Care (part 1 of many)
I don’t care in the way that other people seem to care. I will attempt to explain the way in which I actually care later on, but for now I’ll give you at least one argument towards the general direction right now.
I’ve lost friends for trying to help them out of very bad situations. However, I’ve also successfully helped friends out of bad situations. I’m confident that ultimately the math adds up collectively in their favor.
It may sound selfish of me to say so (though it will be relevant in a minute), but it has also added up in my own favor in the end as well due to my friends getting into better situations. I regard my friends being in better and healthier positions as both an inherent good and a large positive to me in my life. The better my friends and the people around me are, the better my community becomes and the better my life is as a result. It’s an upward spiral of positive benefits with an initial cost that is uncomfortable for most.
Lots of people have negative reactions to others helping them, so people get trained to think that not attempting to help at all (and not rocking the boat in the process) is more beneficial to themselves than actually taking the risk of helping someone. They fear the quick smack of a ruler on the back of their hand so they stay silent and take no actions.
At this point in time you may be wondering, “But Ben, isn’t it better to learn how to put things delicately to people and find ways to express things so that other people get the benefit while not hurting their feelings and yourself in the process?” Well, yes. Of course it is. But I don’t have those skills perfectly yet and I bet you don’t either, so we need to decide what to do in the meantime. I’m also writing this for all those people who lack those skills and would choose inaction over action without sitting around holding onto the excuse of “I’ll do that sort of thing later on after I finally get around to learning delicacy skills” while also never going out and learning those skills.
I was vaguely aware of a guy in high school who had a rough home life and didn’t wear the best of clothes. He had friends and was generally well liked because he was an overall kind, friendly, and likeable guy. However, none of the girls wanted to date him and none of the guys became too close of friends with him. Why? Because he smelled.
He didn’t know he smelled. I didn’t even know he smelled since I was part of different groups than he was. Yet every day he came to school smelling badly while all the people around him (who generally did like him!) avoided him, resisted being too close to him, and chose not to say anything to him about it.
Why did these people who were friends with this poor kid not tell him that he just needed to wash his clothes more often and take a shower every day?
I don’t know all of the reasons, but I did ask a few of the girls who I overheard talking about it. They told me that they didn’t want to be mean. There were trained to be polite first, non-confrontational second, and risk-averse third.
It’s a risk to attempt to help someone. It seems like there are social costs and that if the person reacts badly it will cost you. Who wants someone angry at them for something they said when you can just as easily not say anything and not see the person angry? That sounds reasonable, right?
Blegh! Honestly, personally, I HATE “reasonable”. I almost start to gag every time I hear the word. The people around this kid who considered him their friend sat around not telling him he had a massive, easily-fixable problem that could have enhanced his life (and their own by both improving his life, social value, and happiness and having him stop stinking all the god damn time!!!), but defaulted into the option of inaction. Bystander effects and failed attempts at self-interest galore!
Inaction and leaving your own friends in bad situations is idiotic in the extreme. It may seem like a risk to speak up and interfere, but if you can do things with even a weak attempt at tact and show genuine kindness towards helping the people who are close to you, then I’m generally convinced you will reap in far more benefits in the long run.
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