Begging A Thousand Pardons

She said she’d been impulsive and signed up for an endurance race. She felt motivated by the challenge. Thinking it over later she said she’d better get her training started because she’s old and chubby. She started her training today with those words. Public words, about herself; framed as a joke and the joke carried well within the forum. I immediately prepared to make it all about me. I even started typing. Then I thought of a way to make a splashier presentation of it and stopped typing. I’d save it for later in the day, publish it on my own page, and thereby create a more impactful statement.

Here’s the draft. Imagine it alongside a running selfie.

Today I dedicate my run to @myoldchubbyfriend on her first day of training. This is what I know. I’ve run hundreds of races. In an open field of participants someone older and chubbier than me will finish ahead of me. Someone younger and thinner will finish behind me. Many someones, many times. After 25 years of racing with innumerable motivations, I finally decided the only worthwhile reason to train for any race is to have more fun finishing it.

And that sounds good, doesn’t it? Quote worthy, share worthy, and best of all, it’s completely true. Words of wisdom. From the heart. I’d help my friend and all of her friends and all of my friends and who knows how many more? This is what I do, right? I’m a leader. This is why I’m still online after all these years. It would inspire people and make them feel good and change perspectives and make the world a better place, right? Dead-center in my wheelhouse. The proverbial sweet spot. I was prepped and primed to nail it. I’d bask in validation and fulfillment because it came from the best of my intentions, came from truth, and offered in love. Can’t get better than that, y’all.

But. Except. Wait. My friend didn’t ask for my help. She didn’t ask for anyone’s help. She wasn’t floundering or searching. No questions. No frustrations. Why did I feel compelled to respond with help? My first response was something close to: because I don’t want my friend calling herself old or chubby in public. And also: I don’t want her to use shame or inferiority as a running motivation. Sounds good on the surface but what I’m really trying to do is change my friend’s behavior. And also make myself more comfortable. I’m trying to modify her choices, which implies I think they need to be modified. I nominated myself in charge of all these things too, didn’t I? I’m in charge of deciding what’s better for her and all her friends and all my friends and who knows how many more? Damn, check me out. What a friend I am.

I stopped drafting that and started drafting this instead. Look at my motivations. Who gets to judge them and correct them in public? Who gets to modify my behavior under the guise of inspiring me? Who gets to hijack my statements to use as a platform to display her own? Who gets to decide she knows better and offer me her unsolicited perspective in front of everyone we both know? And why would she do this? Because we’re friends and she loves me? Or is it because she sees an opportunity to impose her brilliance superiority and the benefits of her experience upon me for her own gratification? And this comes naturally to her? It is reasonable and normal, this “gift” of hers? Oof.

I beg a thousand pardons for every time I did this. It was surely more than a thousand times since I just now realized I’ve been doing it. I’m sending myself to my room to think about what I’ve done. Time out. Grounded. Penalty box. Fouled out. Red card. Ejected from the field. On my way to the principal’s office.

In the end all I did was congratulate my friend and write this post as a form of confession. I see what I almost did, and although I caught myself before I did it, I’m still guilty of the latent supremacy which prompted it. I do feel obligated and directed to help people when I can but this is an example of perverting the concept of help to inappropriately showcase my knowledge and diminish my friend. Could someone have actually been helped? Maybe, I wrote helpful things but if I am meant to help people in such ways the opportunities will not amount to poaching an audience for coaching. I can do better. I will wait for better. The help will be better and I will feel better about it.

In the meantime, be well friends. Not that I’m the boss of you or anything. It’s a blessing, as in peace be with you. Wellness be with you. I’m off for a run of my own for reasons of my own to think brilliant thoughts about minding my own business.

— Mercy

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