I’ve been one my whole life. It hasn’t gotten me into trouble or hurt anyone, but I feel like it has hurt me. I probably don’t lie any more than most, but I’m uncomfortable with the amount of lying I do. Some of my lying is “good lying,” and some is bad. Some of my lying is adiaphorous (or so I tell myself), but I don’t think any lying sits squarely on the fence. Even if it isn’t harmful to others, it makes me more comfortable with lying. I mainly lie for convenience; it’s rarely malevolent. That doesn’t mean it’s not bad; it just means it’s not significantly harmful—or so I tell myself. Lots of my lies are lies of omission, and most of those lies are good lies; they spare someone’s feelings or make a process move along more quickly. They are instances when telling the truth would serve no useful purpose or would do harm. But some instances involve keeping secrets related to an inconvenient or embarrassing truth. Most of these secrets are harmless—or so I tell myself.
Many people measure their lives by their mealtimes. Breakfast is the kickoff, lunch is the major break in the day, and dinner is a daily debrief and a closing out. This can be a good way to psychologically parse out the day and mentally check off the phases of our days as they go by. But for me, it’s more about the drinks and mainly a function of alcohol and caffeine. Coffee is a key psychological ingredient for me. It kicks off the day, is medicinal, and marks a transition. Water and other hydrating drinks follow and serve to wash down lunch. Tea in the afternoon marks the transition to the final phase of the working day. Last are the evening cocktail, wine with dinner, and a nightcap, during which I officially close out the day and my time is my own (more on that later). Though it is not conscious or intentional on my part, the drinking phases of my day are a critical aspect of how my days are structured and measured. This has good aspects as well as harmful ones.
There are many situations in which we feel insulted, belittled, or attacked. People act in ways that don’t align with our most deeply held values or strongest beliefs and we feel it’s an affront to us personally. It doesn’t even have to be part of an interaction with us. We might see someone on TV or read about them spouting ideas that insult or offend us. Social media is another culprit. We see things all the time that make us incredulous. We can’t help but to leave a scathing comment in reply. Finally, we will invariably run across people who just don’t like us. So what can we do? How can we respond or react to these people appropriately? How can we not take it personally?
Most of us experience moderate pain, and some of us have to endure chronic, intense pain for extended periods. Pain is there for a reason—to warn us of harm, to let us know that something is wrong, or to stop us from doing further damage. It’s generally not pleasant, and is sometimes difficult or impossible to endure. But pain and suffering are not the same thing. Pain is a signal, and suffering is our reaction to it. In some cases, it’s possible to control or reinterpret that reaction and decrease or cease our suffering. It’s certainly easier said than done, and it may not work for everyone or in every circumstance, but it’s worth exploring.
Even though our feelings are intertwined with the feelings, words, and actions of others, the responsibility for them is ultimately ours and ours alone. There are extreme situations in which another person can significantly impact our emotional state, but we are still responsible for what we do in response to that impact. We should never give that responsibility to anyone else. When we abdicate responsibility for our emotions and give that responsibility to others, we give them power over us—power that is rightfully ours. Realizing this can give us a great sense of freedom: freedom to act in ways that will give us happiness, fulfillment, and peace, and freedom from others’ control over us.