I realized that being an honest person, I forget that not all people are honest.
I began thinking of other personal characteristics that I have that others had a problem with.
I remember during my first marriage, my husband had a problem with me helping a new soldier assigned to the unit I was in. The new soldier was younger than me, had a daughter back home, and missed his family.
I was in charge of training this soldier. As a person, I felt bad for him leaving his daughter behind and though I don’t have any children of my own, I could empathize with his feelings of loss and disconnection with her and his family. As an older person and one in charge of him, I told him, “If you need anything, just let me know. I’m here to help you.”
A few weeks later, he told me he was able to get a flight for his parents to bring his daughter to see him over a weekend. They were staying overnight near the airport. He asked if I could drive him, drop him off at the airport, and then pick him up and bring him back to base when they left a few days later. Of course, I agreed because I’d previously told him if he needed anything to ask.
My husband was upset with me for driving the soldier to meet his family and that I was going to go pick him up again to bring him back to base. I honestly didn’t understand why my husband was so upset. I explained, he’s a young soldier, a new soldier, he left his daughter in the care of his parents, he misses his family, he was able to get a flight for them all to visit him, he doesn’t have a car, I told him if he needed anything to ask me, he asked me for a ride, and I said yes.
My husband wasn’t able to empathize with the soldier or his feelings of loss and disconnection from his family. My husband was simply upset that I was taking time away from him to help someone else.
I realized that the root cause of my husband’s anger was that he wasn’t a giving person. The more I thought about it, I realized my husband never went out of his way to help anyone. He only helped others if there was a benefit built into for him.
The problem wasn’t that I was being empathetic, true to my word, or helping the young soldier. The problem was my husband didn’t understand the personality characteristics I had. How dare I help someone else without reaping a benefit? The benefit was actually being able to help someone else. It wasn’t that complicated to me.
I’m sharing this for you to take time out, take a step back, and think about when someone had a problem with you doing something you knew was helpful and from the goodness of your heart. Think about why it was a problem for them.
Was there really a problem with what you were doing? Or was the problem their lack of concern for, and willingness to help, others? I’d love to read about your experiences.
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[This story is cross-posted from deborahldixon.com]