Compassion and Sincerity In A Cynical World

I always wonder if the generations before ours really lived in more honorable, innocent times. As a child I used to believe that we’re the first corrupt, lying and messed up generation, and that our grandparents lived in an era where things were still civilized and decent. That back then you fell in love the first time around and stayed with that person for the rest of your life, dedicated and happy. That you didn’t steal, kill or lie, or really encounter con men because the world was much less cutthroat. I think the first time that ideology got shattered was in my twenties, when a friend mentioned her grandmother was slowly losing the plot upstairs and while in hospital, began telling her all the scandalous tales of how she slept around and cheated on her husband. That pretty much smacked me square in the face with disillusionment, so I could just imagine what my friend must have felt, hearing all this from her own grandmother.

I admit, I have always been considered a bit gullible and far too trusting. I tend to take people’s word as truth and don’t doubt them unless they give me reason to. My motto regarding this was always, “I don’t cry wolf until it’s chewing on my leg.” Thanks to this mentality I’ve ended up giving way too much rope to a few people in my life, but I steadily learned to see the warning signs and find a balance between being trusting and being careful. It still stuns me how distrusting people are of sincerity though. Is it really such a rare commodity that it immediately evokes cynicism in people?

About ten years ago, I was on a rare excursion to a night club with a friend of mine. I went to the ladies’ restrooms and as I walked in, saw a girl slipping as she stumbled out of a stall. She collapsed on the floor in a rather unflattering mess and I walked up to her to ask if she’s okay, reaching my hand out to help her get up. For a split second she looked at me with wide eyes, a strange sense of complete surprise on her face. Then she broke her gaze and scowled, waving her hands while still trying to get up on her own. I won’t quote her exact words but she basically told me to stuff off and leave her alone.

Over the years I’ve come to understand that asking someone if they’re okay, or offering to help them because you’re sincerely concerned about them, raises red flags in people’s heads. The first, almost automatic reaction, is “what do you want from me?”. We all know it’s said you don’t get something for nothing, and I recall a conversation I had with a very affluent client of mine a while ago. He told me that I must remember, no matter what anyone says or does, in the end they are out for themselves. When the chips are down and it comes down to it, when you cut all the bells and whistles out of the equation, people are selfish in their actions and their intentions. I found his outlook on life pretty cold, but I suppose you can’t be a powerful businessman without developing quite a rugged shell. What surprised me was how many people immediately agreed with this notion when I mentioned it to them. Some even suggested that being in love with someone is a selfish act, because you want them all for yourself, you want to have some kind of power over how they live and what they do. I suppose a lot of relationships are like that, but I believe a deeper love exists where you transcend your own needs and seek out to better the world around you because you see their need for it and want to help them.

Those truly rare relationships and friendships are those where you have no doubt at all that the person you’re dealing with and have a bond with, is only concerned for your wellbeing, growth and happiness. They are the ones you know will not judge you, resent your success or try to impede your growth, even if it means you end up growing apart from them. They are selfless in their love for you and grateful for whatever little time they have with you. It’s rare, but it exists. As long as I know that, I’m okay with being a bit of a gullible, trusting person. It gives me peace and keeps me positive.

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