Ms Makeda and I have this friend. She’s great. One of the kinder and more giving people I’ve met actually. And that makes her a sucker.
Recently, she told a group of friends about her recent escapades with being a sucker. She sometimes agrees to go on dates with guys because she feels sorry for them. She decided it was a bright idea to give money (and lots of it) to someone who told her that she was in a dire situation, but in reality was lying. And then she repeated that mistake again with someone else. She let me of all people borrow her car yesterday without knowing what for or where exactly I was going. But when she decided to buy insurance for her pets for the rapture, I knew it had gotten out of hand. Ok…I made that last part up (she has no pets), but it did get to the point that I told her that if anyone asked her for a bag of money again, she had to call me to discuss first. You know, put a failsafe in place. Some checks and balances. After all, there is no permanent rainbow and she sure ain’t a leprechaun.
To the logical mind, my friend was getting taken for a ride. And others will say that her naiveté and trust is a fault that needs to be corrected. That’s how I felt initially, and it’s the advice that many of our mutual friends have given her: “You have to stop being duped into giving stuff to people!” We told her she had a scarlet S on her forehead that indicated to everyone that she was prime sucker material and to get rid of it required she more frequently tell people asking her for favors (dates, money, more money, etc.), to take a hike.
But, I started to think about it more and, as I did, I went into my wannabe existential world:
Is my friend really the one with the problem? Is she really the one that needs to change?
Or are the rest of us, including myself, the ones that need to think again?
What am I missing by not being more like my friend?
Why am I not more like her?
Well…the answers are probably easiest in reverse order.
Why I Am Not More Like My Friend
I knew I wasn’t more like her because I was afraid of being taken advantage of. I always have had this feeling that the worst thing possible was that someone playing me for the fool, tricking me into doing something I didn’t want to do, or taking something that was mine away from me. So when, for instance, I bought fake tickets on Craigslist to a concert that I wanted to go to, it wasn’t so much that I was upset that I was out $100+ or that I wasn’t able to see the concert. No, instead I was torn up by the fact that someone got over on me. And from that point forward, I didn’t trust anyone selling tickets on Craigslist again. Similarly, I used to often refrain from giving money to people on the subway in NYC because I didn’t necessarily believe that they were telling the truth. I mean, what kind of homeless person has clean sneakers? And her clothes are way too clean to be begging on the street.
What I Am Missing
That may be a logical reaction for a lot of people (either that, or I am a cold cold jerk), but in retrospect, I think this logical reaction of avoiding losses may have led me to miss a lot as well. In the case of the fake tickets, the fact is that the chances that someone would screw me over again on Craigslist are not all that large. And even if it did happen again, so what? I would lose some money, which would not be the end of the world and some guy would be $100 richer at my expense. And that’s not fair clearly. It’s the same for the homeless person in the subway. They may just be lazy and taking my hard earned money. And that’s not fair either. But in reality, this was really about my ego more than anything else. I didn’t want to get screwed because people would think I was a fool for getting screwed over (again). So in fact, I was guarding my ego and preventing myself from more fully enjoying life. I looked up tickets on Craigslist and passed without buying them because I feared that someone was trying to trick me. End result: I could walk around saying I wasn’t a sucker…but I didn’t get to go to any of the concerts I wanted to either. I was judicious in giving money to people on the subway. End result: I could walk around with my ego intact, but I may have passed over one person (and likely, many more) who were actually in dire need of assistance.
What I Need to Re-Think
This realization gnawed at me and made me think twice about my approach to life. My injury of someone unfairly taking something from me is seemingly no comparison to the injury of not helping someone who really needs it. Additionally, the 5% chance of getting screwed again is not worth the tradeoff of the 95% chance of having a more enriching time. It should also be noted that that person potentially playing me for the fool (assuming they don’t have a “need” to…like not being able to feed their children) was / is probably doing more damage to themselves than they were / are to me. That’s not just an argument of karma, but a feeling that they are precluding themselves from being more healthy individuals, mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually…
Why I (And Not My Friend) Need to Change
Being healthy is what is most important. And the fact is that being trusting actually leads to more connections with people, deeper relationships and, thus, a more rewarding and healthy life. I think we frequently confuse that it works the other way around…that deeper connections with people leads to more trust. I know that I certainly made that mistake (and still do). Unfortunately though, that’s not the case. As one of my teachers told me long ago, it requires the ability to be vulnerable and the acceptance it may hurt in order to be truly connected to others. In other words, I see now that the gains that my friend gets from being “naïve” far outweigh the losses she incurs from people that take advantage of her trusting and giving nature.
So, for 2012, my goal is to trust more and put up fewer barriers. To be more vulnerable and less worried about “fairness.” To be less concerned about what I lose and to focus more on what I have to gain. To be less worried about my ego and more worried about my health. To be more like my friend.
To be more of a sucker.