That might not seem like much of a revelation. In fact, you might be saying it's the better part of maturity to come to this realization. I agree, but I also say it's another facet of appreciating the lost virtue of discernment in life. Sure, we know that it's vital to reign in our tongues in work situation, but usually that's where the fine line of discretion ends. We seem to live in a society that believes that if it flies through our brains, it needs to fly out of our mouths, and those closest to us should toughen up to handle "the real us." Frankly, I don't know how that filthy lie survived into the twenty-first century. It was extolled in a very small portion of the mental health sector for a very short while, but most mental health professionals agreed that this was crap even when I was in college in the early to mid 90's. I think social media has a lot to do with it. When anger fueled blogs get thousands of hits and ignite online debates and tirade posts get hundreds of "likes," it gives an impression that anger and frustration is popular, when in fact those very same things can cost you down the line if it falls in the wrong hands - which is easy, considering that the World Wide Web is, well, worldwide.
Discernment isn't popular, but it's a vital virtue if you want a peaceful life. I know that it's a given that we all have an "inner circle" of family and friends that we share most of ourselves with and our lives with, and that's completely right and natural. We all need that inner circle, but it's also natural that this circle will be small. Rick and I were watching the finale of Star Trek - Enterprise the other night, and something that Tripp said really struck me. He said "I can count on one hand the number of people that I trust. Not just trust as in 'I know you, and believe you,' but trust as in 'I know for certain they would never do anything to hurt me.'" It was a powerful statement, but really not much of a revelation unless you take the time to think about it. Folks, one thing that people don't seem to understand is that trust isn't a right; it's a privilege that's earned. You simply don't have the time or energy to invest the kind of work that building an "inner circle" relationship requires with everybody in your life. That's okay, because everybody you know doesn't need to know everything about your life. And frankly, they don't need to.
I'd say that most of the people we know can be trusted only to a certain extent, but a line needs to be drawn and we need to know when to talk and when to shut up. A good litmus test of this: when they stop listening, stop talking. You've hit the limit and there's no need to say more. Now you know how much they're willing to handle. Give them no more. To do so might actually be dangerous. Because there are people out there that will use what they know about you to stab you in the back. Take it from one who knows. I have a lovely knife collection that I've pulled out of my back over the years. I've never been hurt by holding back or, as the saying goes, what I didn't say. You learn to gauge people and situations and when to keep it shut. And knowing when to shut up - and even when to not talk at all - can be tremendously beneficial.
How, you might ask? Well, there are benefits to discernment. The first and most obvious is that you learn more from watching and listening than from talking. It's amazing what you stumble across when you quietly tune in to what's going on around you. People have a tendency to forget that sound carries and you can learn a lot, even from a one sided conversation (just look at what happened to Jana Lanning in Anywhere But Here - half a phone conversation broke things wide open!). But there's another benefit, too. Think about this: how many people trust a gossip? I mean, really trust them? Sure, they talk to a lot of people and seem popular, but activate those listening skills and you'll notice that people are very selective about what they share with these "friends." It's truly a situation of "keep your friends close and your enemies closer," because they see the knife collection hiding behind the smile and know they're one slip-up from adding to their own knife collection. But how much more willing are they to talk to somebody that rarely converses with too many people? A lot more. It's simple human nature. People tend to fill silences with words.
If you keep to yourself and your business, you'll be amazed at what people will tell you if you simply ask. And why shouldn't they? You aren't a threat to them. and the information, they assume, probably isn't any good and you're merely curious and trying to "fit in" or "stay in the know." Let them think it. It's a great benefit, but one word of caution - use it sparingly. Asking too many questions will mark you as "odd" or "nosy" and people will shut you down. They'll figure you're up to something and will shut you out. So keep it simple, keep quiet, listen, watch, and only ask in the most vital or important of situations. Or if it would be natural for you to ask, because it obviously affects you personally.
And then there's my realization that I don't need to know everything that's going on. People aren't going to tell you everything, and that's okay. It isn't always nefarious motives or a blatant effort to "leave you out." Sometimes they forget, or they don't want to worry you. Trust their good intentions and let it go. And for those instances when people do like having their secrets and hanging it over you, just let it go. You aren't responsible for what you don't know and frankly, who needs more responsibilities in life? My life is full. I don't need any more. Heck, somedays I'm so busy that my "give a crap" capacity is gone by noon. It's just crank it out and keep it going. So yes, please, keep some things to yourself and let me take care of my own madness over here. Letting go of having to know what's going on with everybody all the time took a tremendous burden off my shoulders. And who doesn't need that?
Yes, it was a wonderful realization, and I truly don't know why more people don't extoll the virtue of discernment. Discretion is tough, of course, especially when you're angry, frustrated or upset, but it's well worth it to hold back and ponder your responses and reactions. A minute of thought can prevent years of regret from lack of sel