“You see a person’s true colors when you are no longer beneficial to their life.”
A friend posted that this morning on Facebook. (Oh yeah – that Detox thing? Miserable failure.)
What are a person’s “true colors”? Psychologically speaking, we are different people in different situations. A person behaves one way in front of her parents, another way with her girlfriends, and still another with her boyfriends. A fellow behaves differently at work than at a funeral, he behaves one way at the supermarket, and a different way at a bar. We all behave differently when we are alone than when we are in the company of others. So what are a person’s “true colors”?
It’s difficult to know. I suspect that in the context of this quote, it means that the person who wants something from you will behave differently before they get that thing than they will behave after they get it.
This insinuates that people interact solely in order to gain something from the other person or people.
The idea of altruism is also psychologically believed to not exist. We simply can’t do something for another person without benefit to ourselves in some way. If we give money to a homeless person, we get the benefit of feeling like we have helped someone. In a soup kitchen, we get the recognition of others working with us and those who receive what we our work has provided. Even anonymous donations or acts allow the giver some sense of moral satisfaction. In this, all relationships are selfish on some level, we are getting something for giving of ourselves.
This quote isn’t addressing the normal selfishness of human interaction. This quote is specifically talking about people who use others for a specific end goal. Sometimes that may be as simple as monetary gain. Other times, it’s complex and the motives are hidden, possibly even to the person who is hoping to get something from the connection. The gain could be knowledge, a business association, a different more influential relationship, admission to a club.
Sometimes the gain is in personal validation. A person may seek out others who will simply boost his or her ego in some way. She may seek out someone who idolizes her. He may seek out someone who is not as smart or educated in order to have confirmation of his own intelligence. She may seek out someone less successful so that her own ego is supported.
When I got divorced, I experienced a sloughing off of relationships. In many cases, I had been holding up the egos of others while in my miserable and unhappy marriage. My situation allowed them to feel good about their own. When I got strong, when I learned to stand up for myself, when I set boundaries – that’s when problems arose. In some instances this happened immediately. Other relationships took weeks or months or even years before the “true colors” became apparent.
I had previously simply needed those people in my life, I needed friends. I was desperate for anyone to be my friend and was willing to be whoever they needed me to be just to make them stay. In that way, there was a benefit for me as well. It just wasn’t a healthy benefit. I was still sacrificing myself and my needs in order to keep them in my life. The difference was that I was willing to keep them in my life without sacrificing myself. In other words, I was willing to keep the friendship, and just modify it to a relationship between equals rather than the relationship between a pedestal and the vase being supported by the pedestal. I was still willing to support these people, but not only as the miserable example that made their lives look fantastic by comparison.
I was willing to have a mutually supportive relationship.
What became apparent was that they were not willing, or perhaps not able, to make that transition. My success, my survival and eventually my ability to thrive after the divorce became a threat to those particular people. I was valuable to them only as a bad example or as someone lesser than them in some way. My ability to thrive somehow diminished them. When I was a good example, it meant that they too would have to face themselves and their lives and recognize their own weaknesses along with their strengths.
Human beings, it seems, are not very good at looking at our weaknesses.
When we are forced to look at them, and the way they make us feel and the way they make us treat others, we react. That reaction is not always for the best. Instinctively, we want to protect ourselves from hurt and from pain. The easiest way to do that is to strike out in anger. It intimidates others into returning to their former submissive roles, or it simply makes them go away.
I wasn’t willing to return to submissiveness. I walked away from a lot of those relationships when it became clear they required me to be less than I was capable of being. When they were unable to celebrate with me, I had to find new friends.
There were some people that I fougt for, those with whom I sincerely tried to translate the relationship into something more mutual and meaningful. There were also relationships with people who were completely willing and able to accept the changing nature of the friendship, and allow it to strengthen and deepen for both of us. They were not threatened by my personal growth, nor by my new found ability to set and keep boundaries.
If a relationship is solely based on the benefits one gains from the other, but not on what benefits one can provide, then there is simply no great loss. If I am no longer useful to you, and you walk away, I haven’t lost anything. In fact, I’ve probably gained time, energy, and emotional independence. I should thank those people for walking away.
More importantly, I should thank those people who stayed with me through my growing pains, and allowed me to become more fully myself. If my “true colors” are mutual respect, supportive equality, love, kindness, and a willingness to evolve, learn, and grow, then those are the people who deserve my “true colors”. Thank you – you know who you are!