Where and how did the belief that I had to explain anything to anyone come into my consciousness? I suppose like most false beliefs, in childhood. Now I’m not saying that all the beliefs I picked up in childhood were false but let’s face it, many were!
I’m remembering a time I received something in the mail while a friend was visiting. My friend wanted some of what I received and asked for it. When I said no, I received her explanation as to why I didn’t need them all. I was uncomfortable and we dropped it but ultimately, I shared what I had because it was just easier. But easier than what?
I know that I’m very generous. I know that I’m kind. I know that I’m a good friend. I also know that if my friend got angry because I was unwilling to share with her, that was her issue – her burden to bare or issue to confront. The easy part was we didn’t have to talk about it. By giving her what she asked for, I didn’t have to face my fear (she won’t love me or think me good enough if I don’t comply) and she didn’t have to face her issues (why am I so angry that Kate won’t share something with me?). We didn’t have to talk about it. We avoided drama. But what did all that avoidance really get either of us?
I did something I never want to do; I gave something with resentful intention. My gift, no matter how hard I intellectualized it, was given with resentment, anger, and a feeling of defeat. Moreover, the experience took away the joy I held from receiving the items in the first place. Why didn’t I just say, “No”?
The dilemma had nothing to do with the things I received and she asked for. Those things were simply providing an opportunity for me to stand in integrity and say no when I was feeling no. The opportunity was there to be unafraid of the consequences or judgments my friend may have had toward me. The opportunity was there for me to experience and expand my awareness of Self and the conflict between Self and the ego. And through that experience was an opportunity to heal wounds and grow into a deeper love for myself and for my friend.
That experience was a long time ago. Lately I’ve had several opportunities to say no and I’ve done so with no explanation of why my answer was no. My answer was simply, “No.” While I found the courage to say no, I still had voices in my head, telling me that to be a good friend I really needed to explain why I couldn’t help or join the person asking me for help or companionship. I wondered with some level of fear, what I would say if I was asked why my answer was no – not because I had anything to hide but because it’s time for me to stop explaining and expecting my friends or family to explain to me.
In each of those recent experiences, I haven’t lost any friendships… I wasn’t accused of being unkind, less than generous, or a bad friend. In every circumstance the receiver of my no simply said, “Okay.” Okay…
Most of us who study self improvement, at some point, reach an understanding of how our own actions cause our own suffering. I remember when I first began to understand how my thoughts and actions contributed to my having migraines. I discovered that as outspoken as I thought I was, I often held what I thought and felt inside, afraid of the consequences of speaking my mind. So one day in the office I was with my team and I made the announcement I would no longer hold back what I was really feeling because by doing so, I was avoiding their feelings but hurting my body. I took that philosophy into my private life as well.
Discovering and acknowledging how my actions created migraines was a tremendous breakthrough. But announcing my discovery and plans to move forward was a bit unskillful. Okay…very unskillful.
I’ve noticed that explaining ourselves is a trap many of us fall into. A friend will call and instead of just telling me she needs to reschedule, I receive an explanation of the circumstances that require her to reschedule or the awareness she’s had that requires her to reschedule. And I ask myself, “are those explanations at all necessary?” Would I get angry that she was rescheduling with me? Will I think more or less of her if I know what she’s doing instead of sticking to our plan, or what discovery she’s had regarding her old patterns? No. Probably not. In fact, introvert that I am, I’m often thankful when plans fall through. Honestly. And besides, the truth of the matter is, an explanation is only required where judgment is required.
Any need to explain one’s self is a fear of judgment from one’s self or the other. When our friends know us to be loving, generous people and then judge us as greedy or unloving because we don’t share something, meet at our agreed-to time, or be there in every single time of need, that is their burden to bare or issue to resolve, not ours. But for me, it’s not always easy to respond with no explanation. So I’m working on it. It’s not something I’m doing to others but something I am being for myself; unafraid that you won’t love me, will look down on me, betray me, or abandon me simply because I said, “No.” And with no explanation…