Saturday, July 25, 2009

Listen And Learn.

In MrSponsorPants' post on boundaries,
the sentence:
"Believe people when they show you who they are." reminded me of something very similar one member of the first Al-Anon meeting I ever attended used to say with some regularity:

"When people tell you who they are, pay attention!" At the time, I didn't understand what she was trying to convey, and then later on, even when I did, I still refused the message, as I was locked into trying to control the alcoholic.

When someone "tells me who they are," and I get that feeling of discomfort or aversion, I ignore that at my own risk. Every time I have done this, later on in the journey, I've wished I'd paid attention back at the starting gate, when they said, "Now look out, because if you get in my way, I'll run you over!" and I chose to take this as a joke, rather than a statement of fact.

I used to tell myself that I was being tolerant and accepting in these instances, but I think it's more likely that I'm avoiding dealing with the conflict sure to result if I say, "Being run over isn't acceptable to me, so I'll sit this one out, thanks."

If I'm having to set the same boundaries repeatedly, what does this tell me? If the person won't accept a "No thanks" and instead wheedles or tries to jolly me into changing my mind, what are they telling me about who they are?

If I catch myself continually engaged in a process of re-labelling another person's behavior to make it more palatable, what reality am I choosing to ignore?

"Listen And Learn."

This works for program, and it works for people, too. If we sit quietly and listen, they will tell us who they are, and then we can make a reasoned assessment as to whether we choose to have this person, and all the problems that may come with them, in our life.


  1. I'm so glad to have found your blog! I've repeatedly had the same argument with my boyfriend 4 times now. (He's been sober 6 years and attends AA regularly; we've been dating for 2.) This post and the others about boundaries has opened my eyes a bit. Thank you.

  2. How true. I have plunged ahead and let people in my life who have been unreliable. And yet I chose to ignore the red flags.

  3. This has been a painful lesson for me as well, people have shown me who they are, but I didn't want to believe them, because I wanted them to be something else. I had a friend like this, and eventually I realized I was doing the dance with her, and that she was just "doing what pigeons do" so to speak. She showed me but I ignored her because I really wanted to be friends with her. Thank You for the ESH. Lori