Four years can make a big difference. In a mere four years much can change in one’s perspective and approach, provided one has gained some insight and/or knowledge. Change will only come, though, providing that one finds proper motivation.
I am a very loyal man, and I am a very, very forgiving man. Those who deal with me decently and honestly, even when I may disagree with them or have the occasional difficulty with them, earn my loyalty. That loyalty runs deep. I am a forgiving man. I am able to forgive much…and have. I have forgiven acts that have left me vulnerable to life threatening circumstances. I have forgiven choices by others that have left me open to all manner of harm. I have forgiven thefts, lies and legacies that many would have left most bitter and angry.
What I rarely forgive is deceit or betrayal. I often fail to recognize those as such, especially when my judgment is clouded by my loyalty.
However, I am neither a stupid man nor one willing to sit down and allow loyalty to trump self-interest. I’m also not a man capable of ignoring four years of perspective and approach changing experience.
I have learned much in four years. What I learned that is most relevant to this discussion is that there are some who capitalize on their knowledge of another’s loyalty and belief in forgiveness.
In The Transformational Advantage I say that
Choosing to objectively recognize one’s own abilities and, further, to rely only on one’s own perceptions and estimations when making choices, is choosing to be our ideal self
My willingness to be reliant on my “own perceptions and estimations when making choices” was sorely tested this past week.
I’d engaged in a conversation with my much younger brother, a conversation during which he, intoxicated and feeling his oats, chose to be honest about his feelings, his perceptions, and his estimations about my character.
There are some who believe that people intoxicated by drugs, alcohol or by elevated emotions say things they do not mean. Nonsense. They say what they’d usually rather not say, but allow themselves to while their inhibitions are lowered. There are also many, many people who will ignore context while making judgments about another’s actions. Context is everything, however.
In his epic speech to the nation in Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, John Galt reminds the listener that
One must never make any decisions, form any convictions or seek any values out of context, i.e., apart from or against the total, integrated sum of one’s knowledge
During my argument with my brother he ignored the context of the past four years, the events that led to them and, when bringing up a choice I’d made three years prior, conveniently ignored the context of even that choice.
Nearly four years ago, while I was a rent paying roommate (rent I was current on), my much younger brother decided he was unwilling to have me as a roommate any longer, due in large part to our fundamental inability to get along. He made this decision despite the fact that he knew I’d few other options on where to go and that I would end up on the streets. He made that choice again when I moved in with him a second time just over a year later. Same end result. I have repeatedly over the past four years told anyone who would listen, including him, that I had no beef with his decisions, given the circumstances. Flash forward four years, I still, have no beef with them. However, the context of those decisions is precisely relevant to the fight we had this past week.
Four years will change a person, providing he is motivated. Four years of homelessness will change perspective, change approach, give full flesh to the context of life’s choices and events, and will open one’s eyes to motivations, removing blinders that get in the way of acting in one’s interest. Homelessness will motivate a man. Basic survival mode will kind of do that for a person.
I have severed my relationship with my brother – for now – and likely permanently. Yes, loyalty is important. Yes forgiveness can be a value. Yes, family is an important value, but only IF that family member has earned loyalty and only IF his own life is such that one should remain involved with him. The context of the past four years, the context of my brother’s second set of decisions three years ago, and the things I have learned from nearly four years of homelessness convince me that he has not. I made this difficult choice not because he chose to kick me out twice, not because that led (indirectly – MY choices led) to my homelessness, but because he has learned nothing in the past four years. He has refused to acknowledge the context of the last four years this past week – again.
Be it out of belief I would remain loyal, be it out of absolute lack of concern of whether I’d remain loyal, or be it out of a desire to tell the truth as he sees it, my brother spoke his Truth. His Truth tells me everything I need to know. His Truth and my experiences over the last four years informed my decision on what to do. I have relied on my own perceptions and estimations about his character and his motives.
Context is everything.