Ballard: Negative people, situations come at a price

May 18, 2014 

“Bought wisdom is always the best wisdom, as long as you don’t pay too much,” Mother used to tell me any time something was in question. I really didn’t understand this as a child. It took becoming middle-age for me to realize exactly what that quote means.

Once I understood the concept, a lot of things about life began to come into sharper focus. Mother was saying that the way we learn is by making mistakes.

Have you ever reached into an oven to retrieve a pan with a hot pad, placed it on the counter, put the hot pad back in the drawer and then, immediately and without even thinking about it, touched the hot pan with your bare hand to move it? Lord knows with all the baking I do, I’ve had my share of the blisters this type of mistake can cause. But, because of the pain of the blisters, I’ve learned to pay attention and be more careful.

We all go through life with various blisters -- things that have left their marks on us. Things that, because of experiencing them, place us in a position to understand a better way.

Our blisters are nothing to be ashamed of. They are simply reminders that learning from our mistakes is how we grow and move forward. It’s when we don’t ever learn that we pay too much for our wisdom.

How many relationships have we been in where every sign we received flashed bright neon red telling us to get out or move on? We may have gotten the message loud and clear but sometimes refused to heed it. And when we didn’t, we continued to pay. This kind of behavior can become very expensive.

It’s like knowing that we’re paying too much for something but buying it time and again. We wouldn’t do that with a real purchase. Why do we do it with ourselves?

Sometimes, I think it’s me. I always try to give people the benefit of the doubt -- another bit of wisdom I received from Mother. But when you find yourself being brought down every time you’re around a certain person, well, quite clearly at that point, you’re paying too much.

When dealing with certain people, I used to second-guess myself. “Maybe they’re just having a bad day, or maybe they just don’t feel good, or maybe they had a bad childhood,” I would say to myself until I finally got tired of exerting energy into a losing situation. Then I began to conclude that maybe it’s just who they are!

This can happen with any kind of relationship -- including friendships. I’ve noticed it many times during the years with people I’ve been around. I have always believed that people show you who they really are. The problem is, we don’t listen.

I’ve found that the older and wiser I become, the less tolerant I am of being around people who bring me down. I used to be willing to overlook more than I do now. It’s amazing the more you understand and find your true self, the more people you decide to “lose.”

Another thing I’ve come to believe is that if a person is showing me who they really are, then I can’t be the only one who’s seeing it. My wife reminds me that sometimes it may be about an individual’s perception. That can be correct, but a person’s true personality can’t be faked for too long. At some point, their true, authentic self emerges.

Here’s a perfect example. Recently, I was in a situation in which I was communicating with a person about planning an event. With each e-mail, that red neon light became brighter and brighter, alerting me that something was wrong. The situation finally ended in a mess that made me, a self-confessed people pleaser, feel badly. “What have I done to this person?” I asked myself.

Try as I might, I couldn’t get this situation off my mind. Then, I bumped into someone who also knew the person in question. Not getting into all the details, I told them how bothered I was about the situation. Without even a second thought, the person standing in front of me said, “That doesn’t surprise me at all! That’s who they are and it happens all the time!”

Once again, from a complete stranger’s perspective, I realized my gut feeling was correct and I was thankful I hadn’t invested anything more into it. If we listen to our instinct, it’s always right.

Most of us are very careful when we buy anything. We want a fair price and good quality. If it just happens to be on sale, that’s all the better. Why then, when it comes to some of the people around us, do we invest in something our heart tells us is not worth the investment?

I’m working on making better choices in my investments with people. Unless they bring positive energy to the relationship, I’ve discovered it’s just a waste of precious time to invest any further. See, Mother was right. I’m learning from my mistakes. After all, during the years, I’ve bought a tremendous amount of wisdom.

More with Mark

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Mark Ballard’s column runs each week in The Telegraph. Send your questions or comments to P.O. Box 4232, Macon, GA 31208; call 478-757-6877; e-mail to markballard@cox.net; or become a subscriber to Mark’s Facebook page.

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