Whatever else anything is, it ought to begin by being personal. ~~Kathleen Kelly, You’ve Got Mail
Earlier this School term, I took part in a training during which we were separated according to our personalities. There were four groups. The first group were those who considered themselves to make decisions almost instantaneously. I’m sure the organizers found it amusing that those of us in that group had stood to walk toward our assigned section of the room before the speaker had finished the full description.
I have always found these sorts of activities enlightening. I love to see what kinds of people I’m around so I can understand better what makes them behave the way they do. I know full well what my default is, but learning how others process information or make decisions helps me realize that not everyone is going to be as excited about my seeming split-second decision as I am, and why (even though I’ll still make the decision I want). The more I’ve learned about how we behave and why, the less offended I become when someone disagrees with me.
It has taken me almost my entire life to move to a point of acceptance of who I am. In the church I was always told that being impulsive is bad. You need to be thoughtful and prayerful. It all seemed like a waste of time to me. I mean, for God’s sake, you see a hungry person, you feed them, why do we need a freaking committee?
We don’t have time to discuss this with the committee.~~Han Solo, Empire Strikes Back
Seriously, people are suffering and you all are still sitting on your asses debating what to do. Nuckin’ futs, as far as I’m concerned.
The best decisions in my life, the ones that benefited me, are the ones I’ve made between one breath and the next, like deciding to go back to school, then deciding to quit my job when I went back to school. The worst have always been when I’ve spent that requisite time in thought and/or prayer…my decision to marry my ex comes to mind. Still, because of all I’ve suffered for my own personality, I won’t begrudge a person his or hers or theirs.
But, back to our activity…
Once we were separated, we went to tables and each group was given a questionnaire. I don’t think you’ll be surprised that the impulsives were finished in less than two minutes. It would have been shorter but there was two questions we couldn’t immediately agree on, which of the other groups we would work best with and which we’d never want to work with. Perhaps that last question would have been better reworded, or left off completely, the hurt it ended up creating still bothers me today, and it probably always will.
I have read both Christian and secular articles bemoaning the lack of empathy of impulsive people like me. I thought they were written by people jealous of our ability to just decide instead of having to debate. I thought maybe they just viewed us as insensitive because, though we might appear to have no sensitivity because of our quick thought, we do at least realize that our decisions might not make everyone happy and might end up hurting people, and, somewhere in the quick process, we do take that into account. At least, I do. I do agonize over decisions that have hurt others, I do later adjust future decisions based on pain I’ve seen in the lives of others. I desire not to cause that sort of pain. I learned an important lesson in that session. I’m the only one.
As I argued with the others in the group, I was shocked to discover that they honestly don’t give a fuck about other people. That floored me and as we waited for the other groups to finish I was forced to accept that what everyone says about impulsive people is true. It was terribly depressing. But it wasn’t the worst of it.
As we went around the room it became apparent that this problem wasn’t exclusive to impulsive people. No, this problem is universal. Not a single group wanted to work with the group that put the feelings of others first. Almost every group said they would be the worst group to work with.
I turned and looked at the ladies in the group who were obviously no longer enjoying this activity and thought that all the other people in this session were fucking idiots. Or, maybe they just haven’t suffered enough. Maybe the people who found those who put the feelings of others first in their decisions haven’t sat alone by the bedside of their dying child. Maybe they haven’t sat alone in the waiting room of the MRI center listening to the loud, whirring noise that told them the machine that would tell them their child’s future health was scanning his brain for the worst. Maybe they haven’t faced the fear of leaving an abusive relationship and not knowing where to hide from the very real possibility of death.
I hope that’s all it is. Otherwise, we are surrounded by assholes who don’t give a fuck about us.
As for me, I looked at the women in that group and tried to memorize their faces, because when my life goes to hell, which it did one week later, those are the people I want to be around.
See, I am a doer, I don’t need people to come up with a plan, I already have it and nothing’s going to change my mind. I don’t need to be encouraged to spend time in contemplation or to research and see the big picture. I need someone who will sit with me, who will put an arm around my shoulder or give me a hug and won’t lie that everything will be alright. They’ll just be. With me.
Those are the important people. Those are the people that make my hell more bearable. Those are the people that make my load lighter.
I hate that these women will have this memory in their mind, that this knowledge of others finding their way of thinking a hindrance will always be there. Because, fuck the rest of us, people who put others first are the most important people.
“Remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” That was the only time I ever heard Atticus say it was a sin to do something, and I asked Miss Maudie about it.
“Your father’s right,” she said. “Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy . . . but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”