The writings in this blog may sometimes seem to contradict themselves. Where that happens, it is worth examining the contradiction more closely because we either discover there is no contradiction at all or, in its place, we find a paradox. This post is an example of what I mean. Whilst editing the entry from 11 years ago (‘Others’ Opinions’), I was reminded of a friend of mine and a story which needs to be told in order to give a fuller perspective on what is written in that entry.
22 years ago, when I started college, I offended someone. My shyness used to (and still can) come across as arrogance and, during my first conversation with this person, I unwittingly went a step further, offended him with a throwaway comment and for the whole of that college year he didn’t really have much to do with me.
We had mutual friends but because I never realised I had offended him I was left wondering why someone, with whom I thought I would get on well, did not seem to be interested in any kind of friendship. This is where there seems to be a contradiction because, looking back at today’s historical entry, we can ask why it should matter what others think of me?
For that post and the point I am making there, it doesn’t matter. But in this story, with this person it does. He was the sort of person I considered I could easily get on with and I didn’t understand why we weren’t friends. At the very end of the academic year I found out from a mutual friend what the reason was. The first thing I did when I saw him again was apologise to him. We have been friends ever since and I count him amongst my closest friends.
The paradox is that although we need to free ourselves from any attachment to what others think of us, we still have people in our lives whose opinions we care about. They are the people who have our best interests at heart, who help us to stay on our chosen paths and support us every step of the way. We define ourselves in our relationships with them and we are grateful for their presence in our lives.
[Additional quote (taken from the comment below): ‘Paradox and confusion are the guardians of the truth.‘]