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The collateral damage of bad behavior

February 21, 2011

Yesterday and today are two of the worst days I’ve had in a long time.  If you looked up the word “heartsick” in the dictionary, my face would be next to it.  I have been hurt badly by someone I loved dearly, and someone who had claimed to love me a great deal, too.

No, I’m not talking about a failed romance.  It doesn’t require a romance to suffer from a broken heart.  All it takes is someone to treat you badly, in a way you didn’t expect and in a way you didn’t deserve.  When someone in business violates your trust, it makes you made. When someone in your “family,” takes advantage of you, it leaves you reeling.

Yesterday, a wedding took place.  It was the wedding of a dear friend of mine, someone I had known for years and to whom I had become very attached.  I wasn’t there yesterday when she pledged her life to her young fiance; for a dozen different reasons, I couldn’t support her poor judgement and bad behavior by attending and “celebrating” this marriage with her.

But the bad behavior didn’t just occur yesterday. There was a whole series of poor decisions, bad judgment and unintended consequences that resulted in yesterday’s fiasco, and today’s pain.

This story began 21 years ago, when one of the parents of this young woman had an extramarital fling.  It resulted in the conception of our young bride.  The family stayed together and produced more children, but there was always something “different” about the oldest. 

Now, fast-forward to current times.  The fact of the “different” parentage was withheld from this young lady for nearly all her life, and was only discovered as an accident.  When you keep secrets and then find out later, it changes everything.  It changes the assumptions you made about your life; it affects trust.  It affects relationships, and often that can affect other relationships.

In this case, the lies and bad behavior caused a young girl to grow up without a sense of self — and in trying to help her out of a bad situation, it sucked our family in.  Over the course of several months, we were told lies, we were manipulated, we were taken advantage of. And the worst part of it is, I don’t think the young lady was really doing it with any malice aforethought.  It was what she knew.  She lacked the moral fiber to consider the consequences of her actions. As a result, she needed constant bail-outs and help solving problems that didn’t need to occur. She never considered the downstream effects of her poor choices, and now she’s embarked on a lifetime contract, the implications of which I don’t think she’s even really considered.

I don’t completely blame her; I am also very upset about the role her family has played in my family’s pain. A decision and a poor judgement call that was made two decades ago has brought tears, hurt, and feelings of betrayal into my home. Yesterday there were several groups all celebrating what should have been the happiest day of this young lady’s life; I and my family sat home shell-shocked and tearful.  They are oblivious to what we went through, and are still going through, and we still have more “damage” to contend with in the coming days, maybe even weeks.

When you love someone and trust them, you open your heart to many good things. You make yourself vulnerable, too. You believe that they care as much for you as you do for them.  Love is a precious thing and you expect other people to cradle that love like they would a fragile newborn chick or a rare gem.  It is shocking to find that it is treated in a cavalier fashion, or worse, completely disregarded.  Then, “I love you so much” is not a declaration of care, it’s an insult.

We cannot always predict the consequences of our bad decisions, poor character choices, or mistakes.  I think for most of us, we hope “doing wrong” goes undetected or, worst, we can make it all better by saying, “I’m sorry.”  If we had the ability to look into the crystal ball and see what downstream effects our sins might have, I hope we’d consider staying true to positive beliefs and positive actions. It’s like I’ve written before: I don’t have to worry about passing a police officer on the side of the road if I know I’m driving the speed limit.

Today a young couple embark on the first day of married life; what should be the happiest day of their lives and that of the people who know and love them has been tainted by a cascading series of consequences from a bad choice made decades ago. My family and me…”collateral damage.”

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