This is probably true

On July 5, 2011 by Eden M. Kennedy

Probably the most useful instruction I’ve gotten in recent years as a traditionally employed human being who deals with the public is this: “Everybody lies.” Especially when confronted, no matter how gently, with a mistake they’ve made, no matter how small, most people’s first instinct is to deny it. When pressed, when confronted with incontrovertible evidence to the contrary, some people will then relent and wonder how they could have been so stupid. Yes, of course, I guess I did keep that library book an extra day; Oh my God, I did bounce that check, how thoughtless of me. And some will admit fault while still keeping the flags of denial at half mast: “Well, yes, I was wrong, but here’s why I couldn’t get back to the library/bank/store within 30 days to return this dress I’m going to pretend I never wore . . .”

I seem to have an inexhaustible interest in dealing with people in this state, because I do it, too, and I like to watch the shift happen. I like to see it slowly dawn on people’s faces that the thing they were absolutely sure of ten seconds ago was completely wrong. I watch it with total compassion because I know how vulnerable it feels to let down your guard and find the truth of a situation in front of another human being. What I used to like about being that witness was the smugness of being right, but now that I’m older I like being that witness because I love being able to refine my ability to be as non-judgmental as I can when she shift from denial to humility happens, no matter which side I’m on. One of us was brave enough to confront the other with a mistake, the other found the strength to hear it, and we found the truth together, oh my God! We did it! And all it cost was my bank’s processing fee and a little bit of pride!

I read a great quote the other day in The New Yorker, purportedly from the Torah: “We don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are.”

Or, (to paraphrase): A web site is also a mirror: if an ass peers into it, you can’t expect an apostle to look out.

The Internet has really gotten me down lately, watching some people try to talk about their lives in an interesting way and then watching other people come along and pick them apart like they’re doing the world a service for treating someone like shit. It makes me feel terrible. I happened to find a post written by someone (person A) I’d met last year and who seemed nice enough, and this post contained terrible thoughts about someone I consider a friend (person B). Person A’s utter lack of self-awareness really troubled me, and I didn’t know how to process her shrieking about person B. I unfriended A on Facebook, which is pretty much the weakest way to protest anything. When I woke up at 1:00 a.m. with a headache, I thought about it some more and then that still, small voice inside me woke up and said, Let’s throw some love at the problem.

Years ago I read about a study focused on schoolchildren and expressing anger. It turned out that encouraging child A to voice his anger at child B (who’d been instructed to do something bothersome) actually amplified child A’s aggression, and the children’s relationship with each other rarely recovered. Child B could never un-hear the mean things child A had said to him. But the children who were encouraged to express themselves more calmly toward the bothersome classmate, or to wait until the classmate stopped doing the bothersome thing, were able to preserve their relationships or even go on to become friends.

I’m looking for a way to wind this up without boring yet another reader to death.

1. Everybody lies, but
2. Kindness leads to
3. Honesty and
4. True friendship,
5. Kumbaya.

Here are some birthday outtakes of Jackson and me resting up after our walk downtown to the candy store last week.



37 Responses to “This is probably true”

  • Nicely done.

    and if kindness and honesty doesn’t lead to 4 & 5, then it’s a relationship not worth anymore energy.

  • I am going to attempt to make “Let’s throw some love at the problem,” my general approach to life (if such a theft is acceptable to you, of course!).

  • Lovely post. The Internet’s been getting me down lately, too, but I love the compassion in this post. Thank-you.

  • Thank you for that post. I really enjoy your thought processes and the way they often prompt me to a little deeper introspection. This one was excellent fodder for thought.

  • Oh man. Yes, yes, yes. Yes! The Internet can be a terrible, wonderful, hurtful, lovely, awful place. Like life, concentrated. Thanks for writing this.

  • You’re a genuinely smart lady. Thanks for sharing a little bit of yourself here with us.

  • Posts like this are the reason I’ve been reading your blog for… jeez, six years? Longer? I can’t remember back that far.

    Your ability to accept and acknowledge that your perspective is simply your own and necessarily limited, and to communicate this knowledge gracefully and compassionately, imbues your writing with humanity, whether you’re cracking jokes or telling stories. Put more crudely: you seem like a lady who knows a lot of stuff but wouldn’t talk down to people who don’t know as much.

    I like you, Mrs. Kennedy.

  • In short: Haters gonna hate.

  • I rarely comment but this is such a kind and thoughtful post. I’ve been blogging for four years and continue to duck and dodge drive by cruelty on occasion. I welcome disagreement, even passionate disagreement but the anons never critically argue–they launch their tried and true treasures: You’re fat. You’re ugly. You’re a bitch. Or, most popular, you’re a fat, ugly bitch. My blog, judging from comments, is read almost exclusively by women, so as someone into female solidarity (let’s let each other “be” and back up that “be”), it can be a real downer. Thanks again for your lovely take on this.

  • Hmm, seems to be the zeitgeist now, this queasy feeling towards the internets. I think its a good thing, a correction if you will.

    Oh, and sign me up for that new t-shirt!

  • nicely done

  • whoa, universe! lookie there! i was in the process of writing a temper fueled email in response to one i recieved this morning. i decided to stop, chill out, and calm down by doing some google reading.

    google reading and saw this post.

    thank you for this. you possibly saved me from being “child A”.

  • My problem with Kumbaya is that sometimes meaning well isn’t enough. “Interesting” can wander into depths requiring something rather different than a characteristically casual approach. And if Person B can’t find an appropriate voice, well, maybe they should keep to themselves while they give the depths the proper thought.

    And, hey, maybe there is something in charging in deep and working it all out. But if the charging causes trouble, and someone calls that out, then Person B has to wake to the Slow Dawn of Completely Wrong. No? And I can see that other’s schadenfreude can be irritating, and even a target in its own right. But then that becomes a distraction from the deeps, and the “working it all out” goes to the wayside, and what started out as Meaning Well becomes a mess.

    • I guess the crux of my point, which I didn’t explicitly state, is that when you attack someone they often retrench and become more stubborn and stop listening, but if you’re a little more gentle you give them the chance to come around — or at least listen to your point — on their own terms. But so many people grew up being shamed into submission that it’s all they know how to do when they disagree with someone else. It’s certainly what I was trained to do and it’s taken me years to beat it back. Still working on it.

      • We might be agreeing with one another. A lot of noise is defensive frustration, lashing out at one party for lack an answer to another. Some more is defensive point-missing. But I’m afraid I have to say that sometimes folks aren’t so clearly interested in getting themselves right — and then your very true points go by the wayside.

  • I have always been a “live and let live” kind of girl. I believe that honesty couched with love will always win. If I win by tearing someone down, did I truly win? I have recently started blogging as an outlet for my creative energy as part of my bucket list and have also recently gotten my first anonymous slam. I was shocked at how much it bothered me. Compassion and love need to be the values a person lives by to be a part of my life. In short, I am in for the t-shirt.

  • I can’t help but think of Gary Coleman in that Simpsons episode where it ends with him saying “Whatchu talkin’ bout, everyone.” Thank you for the words of wisdom which I will try to remember when my head (and, most damningly, my mouth) are about to explode. I will lovingly file this advice next to Antonia’s advice which is also golden: “Stop being a dick to my kids”.

    You have a candy store within walking distance? God, I have 3 breweries but no candy store. My poor children. Well, that’s Colorado for ya.

  • Hello mamacita — lovely words of advice. Also, isn’t it interesting how the internet has become such an excellent place for bully-fuckery? I recently was lucky enough to stumble upon Penmachine and read Derek’s “Last Post.” What a beautiful self-eulogy (how do you spell eulogy?). I was surprised at how hopeful this post made me feel despite its sad content. I was expecting, when I read the comments below that his hopeful, non-sentimental catalogue of the end of his life and what it meant to him would translate to a lovely conversation. Alas no. Derek’s atheism was picked apart and there was a regular knock-down-dragout between the believers and non-believers. Sad. Vitriol in the virtual world. In the end the internet is like everything else in life. It can be used for good or evil. And you, my dear, are on the side of good. Keep fighting. xo

  • I once told a girl in HS that “someone is always watching you”. I’d forgotten all about it until we saw each other a few years ago at our HS reunion. She said it’s something that has always stuck with her. It’s true. Someone is always watching, particularly in this day and age. And personally, I’d rather someone see me being nice. How embarrassing would it be for someone to see me being ugly?!?

    Also. I love that Jackson bought candy cigarettes.

  • I wanted to leave a comment about what a boring blog this is, but I COULDN’T DO IT because it’s NEVER BORING.

    Also, I think you’re fabulous.

  • Thanks for the support, everybody (except for you, JV)(P.S. I KNOW WHERE YOU LIVE)(P.P.S. Sort of), thanks for letting me get this off my chest. I may have been going overboard with the Ram Dass lately, but honestly. So tired of the drama. I don’t care if it makes me a hippie. Mean people suck.

  • I am breaking my personal rule of never commenting (it makes me feel weird) to second your motion, but also to add a bit of an epilogue. Try working things out rationally and peacefully, sure, but if someone is just not ever going to listen to you or respect you, realize that you may be banging on a door that will never open. So quit banging and walk away. You don’t need to be around people who treat others like dirt.

  • You know, I have one good friend from my hometown that I absolutely hated for a couple years in middle school. Since high school we’ve been very good friends. I think relationships tend to evolve over time.

  • I think you’re fundamentally right, Eden, and an awesome person to boot. I’d like to tweak your 1-5 a little by changing “Everybody lies” to “Everybody’s wrong sometimes.” Sometimes we think we’ve paid the library bill when we left the envelope in a pile by the door. Not really a lie.

    • Oh, absolutely. It’s just a shorthand way of saying that we all can construct very good arguments based on “facts” that we’ve only imagined.

  • Reading about Ram Dass and the Harvard hallucinogen shake-up of the early sixties (based on his bisexuality). I doubt it will make me stop wanting to kill the guy next-door for ceaselessly making more noise than is known to man, I just don’t think my desire to concentrate (on something besides him) will concede. Don’t worry, I’m not going to kill him, it would fuck up my residency AND karma.

    • I’m the place where I’ve read more by him than about him. Conscious Aging is really good, especially if you’re starting to gray a little.

  • Yeah – what you said. Thanks for that; I needed to hear that today.

  • I have spent a lot of time analyzing my own reactions to things lately, and I’ve come to pretty much the same conclusions. I was going to write about it, but I’m still figuring how not to be a kneejerky douchebag. I like growing up.

  • In The Last Chronicle of Barset (which is an altogether worth-reading book anyway) he talks about how much people get committed to being right and staying angry, how they nurture hurts as though it feeds them, and the hurts do feed, but only themselves and get bigger and bigger. He writes about it as though he’d lived it through, and what you’ve written reminds me of it: that sense of having to make the conscious choice to stop feeding the anger at some point. Don’t know why thinking about it makes me melancholy instead of triumphant, but so worth thinking about, and thank you for having the emotional and mental fortitude to forge into such scary, murky territory. (Also, I just successfully used HTML tags! At least there’s that!)

  • I have a boss who taught me that you never lose when you take the high road. You might not come out on top of the argument, might not get the last word, might concede ground. But you still win because you keep your integrity and did the right thing. So you just can’t lose.

    It’s so much easier said than done, but using that as a measure has helped me make some decisions that could have gone really wrong.

  • I found a saying recently that I love and keep in my mind’s eye when I’m irritated with other people: Be kind, for everyone is fighting a hard battle.

    Most people don’t want to be dicks, I think, and the ones who do, well, I just give them my blessings and move away.

  • I know I will never tire of blogging as long as there are wonderfully unexpected posts of truth like this.

    What I teach my children, “There is enough darkness in the world already, you be the light.”

    Because we have to even it out.

  • Fuck, yeah.

    I mean…..

    No, I really mean ‘fuck yeah.’