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Sunday, May 29, 2016

You don't know your neighbor

Friday, July 22, 2011

As a matter of fact, you don't really know your spouse or your kids either. We all hide things from others, no matter how intimate the relationship is. That's why so many husbands and wives are totally shocked and surprised when they're served with divorce papers. They say they never saw it coming. That's the way it was with me. A mutual friend of ours who happened to be a lawyer called me one night and told me that my wife had filed for divorce that day. Neither of us had ever mentioned divorce in the almost 26 years we had been married.

Intimates of ours, people we would trust with our lives, can look in our eyes and tell us things in the most convincing way imaginable and not be saying a word of truth about what they're feeling or doing. We accept it because the options aren't attractive and then later when we find out what the truth really was, we punish ourselves for being so stupid and gullible. And yet for many of us, the years of lies with that person were better than a world of truths without them.

We often hear similar things about people who kill, kidnap, rape or steal. Their neighbors describe them as quiet or friendly or unassuming or non-threatening and often say they would have never believed the person was capable of doing something like that.

Our kids have their own imaginary worlds they live in and those worlds are often totally outside our level of awareness. So we're flabbergasted when they do something we would never have dreamed of them doing.

The woman I fell in love with after my divorce told me once that it seemed like I could almost read her mind and she wasn't sure she liked that because everybody deserves to have their own little secrets that nobody else knows about.

I tell my students each semester that they have no idea what goes on in some homes around here when the blinds are pulled and the doors are shut and that they would be totally amazed if they did.

It's what sociological interactionists call front stage/back stage behavior. It's a kind of public/private existence where we act one way in public and a different way in private. Many spouse abusers successfully get away with their crimes because their friends would never believe they were capable of such a thing. And yet, in the privacy of their own homes, they are. Their spouses see a side of them nobody else does and often suffer terrible injustices because of it.

We all have a need at some level for this kind of privacy because we all have thoughts that society says we shouldn't have. We often think and sometimes act on these private thoughts but we usually do it in a closed setting where either nobody else knows or only a few do.

Because as civilized and socialized as we've become, we still have those Neanderthal genes in us that date back to the beginning of life on this planet when things WERE uncivilized and unsocialized. That may be bred out of the human condition in some distant portal of the future but they're in no danger of disappearing yet.

So be careful how you judge your neighbor. You're a lot more like him or her than you might think.

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Keen insight, Mike. The truth is an elusive animal, found only now and again through careful observation, and in mere glimpses. Thanks.

-- Posted by Boomer62 on Mon, Jul 25, 2011, at 9:47 AM

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Mike Hendricks
Mike at Night