I’ve had some things happening in my life recently that have reminded me how very similar you and I always were. I got to thinking how we’ve both found ourselves in positions where we chose to do what we thought was right only to be made out to be “the bad guy.” Remember back when you worked at that insurance company? You worked in what was called the “retention department.” Basically your job was to take calls from people calling in to try and cancel their existing insurance policies– it was up to you to make sure that didn’t happen. One day you got a call from an elderly woman seeking help in cancelling her policy. Upon reviewing her information, it became crystal clear that the policy the agent had sold to this poor woman was a complete disgrace. It was a policy which only served to allow a hefty commission to the agent; the policy was one into which she’d continue to pay but virtually never be able to collect upon. It was a shameful waste of what little expendable income she had and you knew it– and knew the agent surely knew it as well. You helped explain to her exactly what she’d purchased and why it was a detriment to her. She was extremely grateful for that. You later told me how you had thought of our Grandma– you said, “If this happened to Grandma Mary, I’d want to know that there would be someone out there willing to stand up for her and help her out, you know? What this guy did to this lady is so unfair and cruel.” So you helped her cancel the policy. You told me how awful the next few weeks were at work for you; the ridicule from other employees, the reprimanding talks from your superiors, the threats of you losing your job. Meanwhile, the employees willing to look the other way and just ignore that kind of activity (and even just hang up on callers to get them off the phone) were promoted and heavily rewarded for it. You ended up quitting the job because it didn’t fit with who you were– you had such a strong work ethic but also cared deeply for people and that company made you choose between keeping your job or your integrity on a daily basis. I’m glad you chose your integrity.
Another example that I think of so often dates back a few years further. A friend of yours from high school was seeing a girl, also a friend of yours, on a fairly regular basis. What basically was happening was he was using her for sex and was very open about that with the guys and was not shy about saying horrible and terribly cruel things about her. Meanwhile, you knew that she really cared for him and was thinking there was far more to their relationship then there actually was… and you felt she deserved to know and that she deserved better. So you shared your concern with her– you told her that his intentions were “less than honorable” and that she should be careful because he wasn’t being truthful with her. Long story short… she got mad at you, he got mad at you and all your friends got mad at you for “breaking the guy code.” You were shunned from nearly everyone for a long time for that. Apparently looking out for the emotional well-being of a friend is unacceptable– but knowingly turning away while a friend hurts another friend is completely acceptable. That doesn’t make sense to me at all… never has, never will.
I’ve learned the hard way that speaking up for what you think is right doesn’t make you popular… people don’t often want to hear the truth and certainly don’t want to be reminded when they are doing something hurtful. In the 2-1/2 years since you died I’ve found myself becoming less and less tolerant of things (and of people) that do not serve me well. The only person who can keep me safe and happy is myself– no one is going to set those boundaries for me and I’ve found that I’ve had to push those boundaries out further and further with certain people. Again, that does NOT make me more popular. But if I find myself in relationships that are toxic and hurtful to me… I owe it to myself to end those relationships or, at the very least, keep them at what I feel is a safe distance. I’ve completely lost my patience for shenanigans and useless, meaningless interactions. I want far more substance from my relationships these days and I really only want people close to me whom I know truly care for me and will have my back the same way they know that I’ll have theirs. If that also makes me the bad guy, I’m totally ready to accept that label. I know who I am and what I’m about and I know I act with integrity so I have no regrets.
Each time I’m faced with a situation where I need to choose between my own principle and making others happy (or simply not “rocking the boat”) I am reminded of you. You were a good example to me and you continue to be from the other side! Thank you for your continued guidance, Brian.
I love you!