There have always been those who would bring harm to others, either physically, emotionally or professionally. Although it may seem like a pretty cynical view, learning to acknowledge and understand that not everyone can be trusted is a significantly important way to protect oneself. I’ve come to realize over the years, through my personal and professional life, that trust is a dangerous commodity, albeit a necessary one.
It can be difficult to know who to trust. Even when a person is nice and welcoming, they can forget you in a heartbeat, or fail to be there when you need them. This can lead to the distrust of people in general. Meanwhile, even when certain people seem like absolute assholes or ignorant, they may give the shirt off their backs if they think it will help you out. It can make navigating the social world extremely difficult.
It reminds me of a story I heard from a character in a movie I watched years ago. The story always stuck with me, and I think it applies quite well to modern society. Here’s the story:
“Once Upon A Time, There Was This Little Sparrow, Who While Flying South For The Winter Froze Solid And Fell To The Ground. And Then To Make Matters Worse The Cow Crapped On Him, But The Manure Was All Warm And It Defrosted Him. So There He Is, He’s Warm And He’s Happy To Be Alive And He Starts To Sing. A Hungry Cat Come Along and Clears Off The Manure And He Looks At The Little Bird And Then He East Him. And The Moral Of The Story Is This: Everyone Who Craps On You Is Not Necessarily Your Enemy, And Everyone Who Gets You Out Of Crap Is Not Necessarily Your Friend, And If You’re Warm And Happy No Matter Where You Are You Should Just Keep Your Big Mouth Shut!”– Electra, Assassins (1995)
The delivery of this revelation comes during a point in a Sylvester Stallone movie where there’s a lull in the action, and is meant as a mild comedic diversion in the middle of an otherwise dark movie about contract killing. It elicited a laugh from me, the first time I watched the movie. But I feel it provides an important lesson in the modern world as well. Trust, as I said, is a valuable commodity. And it can be extremely difficult and frustrating knowing when to share said commodity.
Although I may once again be showing my cynical side, we live in a world where a date gone wrong may result in claiming sexual misconduct, where online purchases can result in the money being taken without any goods ever being delivered and of promises made but never kept. It makes navigating through all the bullshit not only difficult but somewhat dangerous. It also makes friendships difficult to establish and maintain.
I’ve had so-called “friends” who have smiled and been nice and fantastic in person, but have either stabbed me in the back when I wasn’t looking or simply weren’t there to provide the basic elements of friendship when they were needed. One good example I can provide, is a friend who has good moral value similar to my own, expresses the existence of our friendship, yet time and again I’ve been stood up without warning when trying to meet with them or get their assistance with something. This person may be the nicest person in the world, but they still suck as a friend.
On the flip side, I have associates within my social circle (if I can really call it that) that are often loud, opinionated and rude. But during times when I was lowest, these associates will be the first to step forward and lend a hand. Like I say, it can be confusing. It would be nice to simply have people in one’s life that share common interests, goals and values and that you never have to second-guess. But that simply isn’t how the world works.
Obviously, this doesn’t mean that I’m suggesting in ANY way that one shouldn’t have friendships. Friendships are an integral part of a normal human existence; normal being an extremely subjective term, of course. But the idea is to protect yourself, especially during online interactions where you can’t ever be definitive about a person’s motives. Take your time with people and trust only so far as it allows the association to develop without putting yourself in a compromising position.
Last but not least, appreciate the friendships you do have. My inner circle is so small, it’s basically a dot. But I consider friendship to be a “quality not quantity” consideration. I prefer to have the friends whom I only speak to about once a month but that I can trust wholeheartedly, than the ones I hang out with every week but may be stealing the money out of my swear jar when I’m not looking. And trust me, that fucker’s full! ☯