“Wear your learning like your watch, in a private pocket; and do not pull it out and strike it merely to show that you have one” ~ Lord Chesterfield
After so many romantic posts, this one’s going to come off as Machiavellian. But it’s not.
Let’s face it…in real life, and in some of our best stories, the all too nice characters end up not very well. Take Ned Stark (yes, I’m still watching). Is there anyone more loyal, honest and noble? Not so far. Yet where’s his head? Not on his shoulders but on a pole. (Sorry if I spoiled it for anyone.)
We all ask how come the nicest, most giving and loving people always seem to get the short end of the stick or worse. It doesn’t always happen, but it happens often enough to cause alarm and invite serious investigation. What are they doing wrong?
Well, think about your life as a beautiful garden you work really hard at maintaining. Now imagine you leave the gates open at all times, and monitor nothing. Anyone can enter and do as they please. Thieves and honest folk alike will come into your garden and use it freely. They will pick the flowers, litter the grass and maybe even chop a tree or two. Whether with malice or innocence doesn’t really matter, does it? The result is the same.
And there is the answer. If we want to keep that ‘garden’ safe, we have to protect it. As in set some boundaries for guests and trespassers alike.
And now to another metaphor…Not everyone puts all their cards on the table from the start. Some hold back because they are greedy, manipulative and vindictive creatures who will stick a knife in your back with one hand, while handing you a flower with another. Others hold some cards back because they are afraid, know what it’s like to get burned, and have learned to be very cautious. And still others hold back not because of a hidden agenda or intent to deceive, but to save some resources for later use when these will be most effective.
Obviously I’m arguing for boundaries and for holding some ‘cards’ back. Challenges will always come, others will play dirty. If you’ve already given everything away, all that’s left to do is plead and argue until you turn blue in the face, meanwhile someone else just walked all over you.
Like many, I too believed that not being an open book to everyone at all times makes me dishonest. More often than not, I put all my cards on the table, and sad to say, ended up with my head on a pole (well, metaphorically speaking). The honesty is not the problem. Not having anything left to work with is…and being completely exposed, at the mercy of anyone who might have a stone to throw. It works this way in our personal and professional lives, and I for one have lost every single time I didn’t save some of my resources.
There is no other way to live than with compassion, love, honesty and integrity. But, not everyone shares these values. There are those who will manipulate their way in any situation, put up a good act…and not everyone can tell the difference between an act and the real thing. Many people have agendas, are greedy, vengeful because they feel scorned, and will stop at nothing to get what they want or feel they deserve. The greatest danger and damage comes not from openly aggressive characters who shout and hurl stones. They too, like people who are too nice and too open, are guilty of revealing all from the start. To watch out for are the quiet, calm, agreeable types, who have a logical answer for everything, who remain unwavering in their persistence and take no prisoners.
And also, we should not forget that all of us have our weaknesses, which we can easily fall victim to, all on our own because of fear and uncertainty…but especially when there are outside influences who know exactly which buttons to push.
So yes, we have to be smart, keep some cards to ourselves, and monitor who comes and does what in the beautiful garden that is our life. And also, not expose ourselves completely, at least from the start. If only Ned Stark would have done this, the seven kingdoms might very well have had the best possible king, the treacherous would have been revealed and punished at the right time, and he would have saved not only his own life, but protected those he loved most.
My advice…let’s not be him.