When trying to be a good person goes wrong

Posted by on Oct 25, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

When trying to be a good person goes wrong

The danger of unexamined beliefs

It is commonly accepted that we create our lived experience through our mind – this basically boils down to the grounding values and beliefs that we utilise in our approach to life. These rules however need to be considered in context and need careful examination for their full implications.

This was brought home to me in a recent coaching process with a young lady who needed help with her stress and anxiety. She was particularly distressed by the fact that her friends were getting distant and that she had apparently developed a bad reputation in her social circle. She also shared that she can’t seem to keep a romantic relationship for any period of time.

During our coaching conversations it transpired that she was dating men who were clearly unsuitable and in some cases obviously dangerous. These relationships also very quickly became intimate. I was perplexed because she was a creative capable young woman who was working hard at establishing her own business while keeping down a job with long hours. In many ways she seemed sophisticated and worldly yet at the same time her actions indicated naivety and lack of boundaries.

During on session where we were discussion her umpteenth disastrous encounter with a man, I said in some desperation: ‘Why don’t you discriminate?’

Her reply was a complete revelation: ‘No, I can’t possibly discriminate, only bad people use discrimination’ This had become the rule by which she was running her life and it meant that she had to be everyone’s friend. It became a life without limits.

She had grown up in a context where racial discrimination was a big issue in South Africa and discrimination was vilified (as it rightly should be in the racial and political context). This became important life lessons at school and my client had taken the rules against discrimination and generalised it to her entire life, therefore making it impossible for her to use any form of judgement for fear of being a bad person.

We discussed this issue in depth and agreed to change the word from ’discrimination’ to ‘discernment’. We also agreed that it is ok to use judgement in order to keep yourself safe.

From this one insight, boundaries started to be put in place so she could more selectively manage relationships and focus on what she wanted for her life. At last report she had found a new career direction and most of her friendships are now on a healthy basis.

I fear that life is not simple and cannot be successfully lived according to simple unexamined rules and principles. It probably takes many more that one principle to make a ‘good’ person anyway. Context and balance really does need to be considered.

It is therefore vitally important that we tune in to how we speak to ourselves and of the world and to even check on what we really think particular words mean. We may be creating our own problems by not utilising wisdom and close examination of our own narrative.

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