In the realm of human relationships, meeting people half way, both literally and figuratively, is a crucial concept. Who meets you half way is an excellent measure of the people you have in your life, which of them you should have more of, and the majority you should avoid.
The Golden Rule and literal meetings
I consider myself an adjusting person. I try not to be rigid in the small insignificant incidentals. Where to meet, when, what time etc. I also try to live by the Golden Rule. Treat others the way you would like to be treated. If I think it’s right that I should, once in a while, be offered to be met outside my doorstep, the most convenient to me, I think it’s right that I make such offers to people. I can’t expect from someone else what I won’t do myself.
You’ll never guess what happens next!
If you guessed that people are generally not adjusting in return and walk all over the mangled corpse of the Golden Rule in response to my behaviour, you win the grand prize. Most people have, do, and will continue to let me make all the adjustments while making none themselves.
Some will go further and make extra demands in addition! Casually, of course, in the same tone as crooked, bone-headed clients tell me that they just want something very simple from me which is ‘very easy’ to do. Clients have been telling me that for 20 years, so I am not taken in by either deceit. How many of these people match my offers of going all the way and meeting me at my convenience? Almost none, though they often have cars and options, while I use public transport.
Driving out of your way
Speaking of cars, something that grates almost more than the behaviour I just described, is an offer to be picked up or dropped at some 2/3rds point. No, this is very, very rarely practical because of traffic. It’s just tokenism.
In this regard, in my mind, people are just petty. Growing up, I remember not being financially well off and counting litres of petrol at some points, and still having parents who would gladly drive 40 kilometres out of our way to drop someone who had almost no other options, in the middle of the night, with a smile. They’d also bring me and my brother along, of course, and we all enjoyed it, and I got to see more of the world, in a way that matters, than most people ever will.
Dealing with Fools Gold
This unequal, and often just unkind behavior is common enough in both literally and metaphorically meeting someone half way, so what do you do in such no-win situations? Since it involves human beings, you could idealistically think open discussion is the answer, but you and I both know the most common reaction to that is going to be indignant hurt on the part of the perpetrator of the unfairness, hurt which will very likely be used as a hefty bargaining chip to tease out ever more adjustments from the most adjusting person in the room, me, or possibly you.
You must realise at some point that it is very difficult to change the basic nature of people. Unless you care about them deeply and love them irrevocably, it is not your job. The pain and collateral damage of trying to cause or inspire such a fundamental change is not worth your time and health.
The Holy Man and the Scorpion
There’s an ancient Indian parable that covers this philosophical dilemma. A sadhu, a holy man (or woman), an ascetic, is standing in the waters of a pond, cupping water in his palms and performing a daily ritual. He notices a scorpion barely alive and floating in the water before him.
“Please save me,” it says. “You are my only hope.”
The ascetic considers all life to be precious, so he cups his hands together, and lifts the creature out of the water.
“Thank you, thank you, kind Sir,” it says finally safe, and then its tail rears up and it stings him in the wrist. Instinctively he jerks his hand and the scorpion is once again floundering in the water and the holy man is nursing a wound.
“Please save me,” cries the scorpion again, “Or I will die.”
“I was saving you, and you bit me!” says the sadhu. “Why should I do that again?”
“I couldn’t help myself,” says the scorpion. “Please save this wretched creature. I promise it won’t happen again.”
Of course, he saves the scorpion again and gets stung again and they’re back to square one. This is a parable, so believe it or not, this happens a few more times.
Off to the side of this scene, on the banks of the little pond, a more street-wise person is enjoying the evening breeze and has watched this bizarre stand-off with great curiosity. Finally the continuing drama is too much to bear.
“Sir,” he calls out to the ascetic. “Why do you continue to try to save that creature when it punishes you for it every time? Leave it be.”
Weak from all the venom coursing through his veins, the ascetic turns to the on-looker and says, “Just because this creature is ungrateful, it doesn’t mean I should not do the right thing and try to save a life.”
The parable has no ending, but leaves us with a question, sometimes merely implied. Who is more silly here? The scorpion for following its nature and not allowing itself to be rescued from certain death, or the holy man for ignoring the nature of the beneficiary of his principles and coming to the brink of his precious life in the process?
Seen any ungrateful scorpions recently?
You may, at first glance, think this is absurd, a man letting a scorpion sting him over and over again to keep to some abstract personal principle of conduct. But really, think about it a bit more deeply and you will surely know someone who has been in a similar situation, or you will have yourself been in such a situation with another person at some point.
Maybe you are stuck in such a cycle of madness with someone now. And if you are extremely brave, the bravest of the brave, you will ask yourself the most difficult question. In my situation, am I more the holy man, or am I more the scorpion?
Choose your insanity wisely
As for myself, I try to be, as often as possible, the curious man on the banks. It is common wisdom that carrying out the same actions repeatedly and expecting different results is insanity, and I try to save my insanity for more creative pursuits. I try to have as few encounters at the pond as one can.
I can think of a handful or less people in my life, maybe 2-3 depending on how exacting I’m being, who meet me half way in the many ways I’ve described and implied. Therefore I simply have very few friends and have let the other relationships fade into random disrepair.
Find the people in your life who will meet you half way and cherish them. You will find very few of them in your lifetime. On my part, I try to meet and spend time with my precious handful as often as I can. In some cases it’s not often enough because of practical circumstances, but that’s only circumstance, not sentiment. By sentiment, I know I would go all the way to meet them every time, because they’re golden and they’ll make sure I won’t need to.