What happens TO you, happens FOR you

Three women work in the same department. They are 24-year-old Rose, her 27-year-old friend, Elaine, and a relative newcomer, Elizabeth.

Rose writes, “I tried to become friends with Elizabeth, but over time found her to be rude, moody, untrustworthy, and a gossip, who talks behind the backs of others. So, I stopped hanging out with her. But Elaine continues to treat Elizabeth as a friend.

This troubles me. I’m not saying Elaine should stop seeing Elizabeth because of the way I feel, but I can’t understand what she sees in Elizabeth. I’m confused and disappointed. Any ideas?”

An interesting thing about life is that it is impossible to criticize others without being guilty of the same thing. For instance, Rose is critical of Elizabeth because Elizabeth speaks about others behind their backs. Yet, in her email to me, Rose is speaking about Elizabeth, behind her back. Isn’t Rose doing the same thing?

I’m not condemning Rose because most of us, including myself, are equally guilty of doing the same thing or something similar. Once we understand this, however, we grow more accepting and it becomes more difficult to criticize others. This may explain why Elaine is able to treat Elizabeth as a friend.

One of the ways we hurt ourselves is to have unrealistic expectations. That is, we see things as we want them to be, rather than as they are. For example, expecting others to think and act as we do is unrealistic, for we are all unique and have different views of the world. In fact, we can’t share facts. All we can share is our perception of the facts. In Rose’s view, it is stupid to associate with ‘bad’ people, so she is hurt when Elaine befriends Elizabeth. But in Elaine’s view, it is smart to get along with your co-workers. After all, you are all members of the same team and will need the cooperation of all to be successful.

From time to time we should stop and examine our mindset (perspective, world view, attitude), and ask ourselves, “Is my mindset helpful or hurtful? Does it empower me or weaken me? Do I need to shift or expand my perspective?” Here’s what I mean. Some people see the world as hostile and threatening, others as friendly and hospitable. Which of the two views is more helpful?

Rose’s ‘problem’ is a wonderful opportunity to expand her mindset. Rather than recoil at Elaine’s different way of thinking, she could embrace it. Consider these words of Friedrich Nietzsche (1844 ~ 1900), “The surest way to corrupt a youth is to instruct him to hold in higher esteem those who think alike than those who think differently.” In other words, we should respect those who think differently, for they are the only ones we can learn from.

Whatever happens TO us, happens FOR us. Our ‘problems’ are no more than tools to strengthen and improve us. Our goal, then, should be to GROW through them, not to GO through them. Instead of wishing that Elaine would become more like her, why doesn’t Rose consider becoming more like Elaine?

Look at the many benefits Rose would reap by befriending

Elizabeth: Rose would experience growth in personal power, become stronger by doing what makes her uncomfortable, develop her character by becoming better instead of bitter, grow in acceptance, understanding, patience, and compassion; discover that as she changed for the better, the world would start treating her better; experience the exhilaration of making positive changes, grow in self-esteem, and become closer to Elaine because she would be more like her. Yes, when viewed properly, we will realize that “Each relationship nurtures a strength or weakness within you.” (Mike Murdock)

Another way Elaine can expand her mindset is by thinking about what Anthony Robbins said, “Some of the biggest challenges in relationships come from the fact that most people enter a relationship in order to get something: they’re trying to find someone who’s going to make them feel good. In reality, the only way a relationship will last is if you see your relationship as a place that you go to give, and not a place that you go to take.”

Besides, we have to improve ourselves before we can improve our relationships.

Sometimes we let our imagination run wild with negative thoughts of “What if.?” For example, what if Elizabeth corrupts Elaine and turns her against me? This line of reasoning creates fear and hostility. All it does is widen the separation that already exists. Why not use the power of our imagination by posing positive questions of “What if.?” For instance, what if Elaine softens the heart of Elizabeth and makes Elizabeth easier to get along with? What if I’m kind to Elizabeth, isn’t it possible that she will feel less threatened and open up? What if Elizabeth is not nasty, but wounded? That is, what if she acts as she does because she was betrayed in the past and has lost faith in most people?

Although he was originally speaking about marriage, his words apply equally well to friendship, so I changed the words of Richard L. Evans (1906 ~ 1971) slightly (changing “marriage” to “friendship”), “All things need watching, working at, caring for and friendship is no exception. Friendship is not something to be treated indifferently, or abused or something that simply takes care of itself. Nothing neglected will remain as it was or is, or will fail to deteriorate. All things need attention care and concern and especially so in this most sensitive of all relationships of life.”

True friendship is unconditional. There are no rules, such as, “If you are to be my friend, you must behave in a certain way.”

When we set conditions, we are not building a friendship, but taking a hostage. Rather than becoming a hostage taker, become a hero. Become big enough to rescue those in need, big enough to lift and inspire them. Awaken to your magnificent capacity to do good. Don’t leave enemies, leave a legacy.

It all starts with you. Consider these words of the former President, CEO and Director of Luminent, Dr. William R. Spivey:

“No one is an island, everyone needs to be wanted. To be wanted, you must be known; To be known, you must build relationships; To build relationships, you must communicate; To communicate, you must have something to say; To have something to say, you must have a plan; To have a plan, you must know where you are going; To know where you are going, you must know where you are; To know where you are, you must know who you are; To know who you are is the beginning.

No one can hurt you because you are in control of how you interpret and respond to circumstances. It is your thoughts and actions that make you feel the way you do. If you don’t like the way you feel, you can change your thoughts and behavior. Most of us are already carrying too much emotional baggage, so why add to our burden by carrying a chip on our shoulder? Remember, as Todd Ruthman wrote, “It is the things in common that make relationships enjoyable, but it is the little differences that make them interesting.”

Lastly, Rose, have you thought about meditation? You may find it very calming, joyful, and insightful. The practice of meditation can make us more accepting and patient. A very easy (and inexpensive) way to begin is by purchasing an outstanding 2-CD set called “Sacred Ground.” It just costs $16.96 for the set, and if you download it, the price drops to $14.95 and you save on shipping costs. You can learn about it and how to use it here:


I thank Rose for sharing her story with us, hope she found something helpful, and wish her and her coworkers peace and happiness.