Nice guys finish last

While I won’t say that I insist on winning at all cost, I certainly resile from being mistreated or poorly treated.  Regrettably my sense of fairness is distorted by what must to some appear to be a deep-seated psychological defect or inadequacy (you know, the sort of paranoia which attends people who have a “massive inferiority complex” or maybe even just a childish incapacity to accommodate criticism of any scope or degree).

Whatever the explanation of my objection to coming out on the dirty end of the stick, I have lately come to the conclusion that there is nothing which qualifies as a reasonable cause. What I have discovered instead is that it doesn’t matter a fig who is right or wrong when it comes to the assessment of the quality of a relationship – at least so long as one is determined to keep it alive.  Naturally if the relationship is so objectionable that one wants to withdraw from it entirely then it really doesn’t matter why.  But the crazy thing is that so long as one persists in analyzing the relationship and directly or indirectly attempting to keep it afloat, it is equally irrelevant whether the Party of the Second Part is behaving up to any particular standard. Howsoever the behaviour is characterized – good, bad or indifferent – it is completely unrelated to the way in which I prefer to conduct myself as long as I am in the relationship; otherwise, one is in the paradoxical position of acknowledging that one’s behaviour is dictated by others.  And there’s the rub!

If on the other hand one imagines that one’s behaviour is driven by one’s own internal parameters, then there is no other choice than to focus on that and that alone.  So it really doesn’t matter a damn who finishes first or last, or whether you’re a nice guy or not. This may sound to be an alarmingly plain conclusion for some; but for me it required months and months of effort. The pain in coming to this eureka moment wasn’t that I thought for a moment that others could dictate my behaviour; yet the truth is that I was allowing the behaviour of others to influence me.  It became a distorted game of repercussion.  I was bouncing around like a pinball.

Naturally the breadth of my involvement in this on-going episode was limited to those who were within my orbit of friendship. Though I hate to say it (because it sounds so horridly trite), we all know that none of us has many friends. That alone imparted an imperative to the enterprise. Indeed I began to imagine that my friendships were extremely limited to the point where I questioned whether any of them within reach were extant.  This should have been my first clue because it highlighted my nagging impatience, a failing from which I have suffered all my life and which I have come to think contributes in no small part to my bi-polar perceptions.  I am so hopelessly impatient that it requires mere moments for me to bounce from one posture to another as though I am perfectly right to do so.  The binary nature of the idiosyncrasy causes far more disruption than merited and of course contributes to a black-and-white view of the universe.  It is a mistake however, a treacherous mistake.

It is easy to laugh at such egregious behaviour; viz., constantly calculating one’s own behaviour based upon what others think or do. If nothing else it is obvious that one cannot read the minds of others (even though we pretend to do so all the time). But rising above such a thing as reciprocity, for example, is not something we readily embrace.  Tit-for-tat is a hallmark of many associations.  And there’s always the worry that if we allow ourselves to be taken advantage of, we spell Loser.  Yet these worrisome matters are red herrings.  They distract us from what should be the focus of our conduct; namely, what makes us happy with ourselves?  If you remove the “other” factor you instantly eliminate a world of differences. Besides it is axiomatic that if one is not happy with what one does, then there is little point in doing so.  The more compelling rationale however is that if one does what one believes is appropriate, then one is less likely to be dissuaded by the want of reciprocity or any other return on the initial volley. This principle can usefully be fortified by the further logic that we cannot govern what others do in any event except perhaps by example, but certainly not by calculation.  Of course there is certain calculated behaviour which can precipitate a foreseen reaction but that type of conduct is far removed from anything that would qualify as a genuine friendship.

In my limited sphere of friendships, all those whom I count as friends are busy people. Several are professionals, most are highly educated (more than one university degree); all are intelligent and intellectual; some are artistic; others are entrepreneurial and inventive; most have distinguished themselves by professional achievement; some are just plain pleasant. And all of them have duties which go beyond just being a good friend.  Being a good friend is I believe an active rôle not a passive association.  But the activity that is prompted must arise from within not from external circumstances.  Friendship is in that respect selfless and, considering so much of my life revolved around professional relationships, I perhaps unwittingly distanced myself from the sustaining feature of altruism which is critical to friendship.  In short, leave the economic and commercial interests to others, they have no place in a friendship.

If one persists in throttling a relationship in the name of control or motivation the result is obvious – strangulation, and it affects both parties. It is by far more relieving to be guided only by one’s own desires for fulfillment of one’s own purpose (not one’s ends).  It is as axiomatic as saying, “If I do what I like then I’ll like what I do”.  Nowhere in that theory does Mr. Nice Guy factor.