A chance meeting with an old friend last night brought back some memories. They weren’t good ones. She had endured a certain someone I also had to endure in a professional environment, and the story was so similar.
Some people have a pattern.
My experience through that period, a Dark Night in my career and personal life, taught me much that I later found echoed in the teaching of the Stoics, and others. Though I remained professionally unscathed, except for choosing to take a few years off from something I loved, the personal effect was much more impactful.
First, I let it affect my life, my relationships, and my mind far too much. I felt I needed to put all my energy into not giving “them” the ammunition to destroy my career, as I saw some individuals do, but that left little else for personal relationships or my own well-being.
I learned from those mistakes, at a high cost, but things got sorted and ended up where they ought to have.
Through that time, I also learned to “penetrate and see,” what – and whose – criticism to listen to and accept, and what to dismiss. The lessons deepened several personal and professional relationships in which exist mutual responsibility and accountability. Nothing is greater than to have friends who hold you accountable, and who feel responsible to being accountable themselves. While particularly important in an armed profession, it is true in all of human life.
I also learned that very few people are really willing, or capable, of meeting that standard. These few are the kinds of people I make friends.
And I learned to see what sorts of people are criticizing. So much on the Facebook and blogs and vlogs is from folks who have little to offer other than simply flaunting themselves and criticizing others, and the inanity of this is no different in the worlds of martial arts and defensive firearms. The same online narcissistic, shaming culture that pervades the Interwebs comment sections is there. The dangerously unqualified, the people who don’t know what they don’t know, and the one-trick-ponies whose single expertise seems to allow them to drive across all lanes of travel far outnumber qualified, quality instructors, coaches, teachers.
Even some of the good ones lose their way.
Long ago I decided not to let it wrack me with all that much anxiety, because their opinions are not all that important. And to no longer work to maintain one-sided relationships, friendships, etc. where mutual status, respect, accountability, and responsibility are present. To no longer devote much time to toxic sorts of people; including the well-meaning or well-seeming individuals that can never seem to get their act together, to those who come looking for advice or guidance but don’t ever listen, or to sycophants only trying to gain something as they game something.
It’s tremendously freeing.
The Daily Stoic recently offered this in one of their email lessons:
“Seneca would have liked the passage at the conclusion of the novel What Makes Sammy Run? by Budd Schulberg, which renders this verdict on the empty, broken life of an immoral Hollywood studio boss:
I had been waiting for justice suddenly to rise up and smite him in all its vengeance, secretly hoping to be around when Sammy got what was coming to him; only I had expected something conclusive and fatal and now I realized that what was coming to him was not a sudden pay-off but a process, a disease he had caught in the epidemic that swept over his birthplace like a plague; a cancer that was slowly eating him away, the symptoms developing and intensifying: success, loneliness, fear. Fear of all the bright young men, the newer, fresher Sammy Glicks that would spring up to harass him, to threaten him and finally overtake him.“