An eye for an eye…just not TEN eyes for an eye.

an-eye-for-an-eye

As always, I never know where to start, especially with “deep” topics. How I act (and react to others) has been brought to my attention recently (not in a bad/mean/accusatory way) and it led me to a thought-provoking discussion with me, myself, and I. I try to act and live my life, for the most part, by the Golden Rule: treat others how you would like to be treated. I wasn’t always this way and I’m not this way all the time but my general rule of thumb is that if you are nice and respectful to me, I will be nice and respectful to you. BUT…what happens when you/I stop being nice and respectful? Will you/I retaliate and cease being kind? Or will you/I continue to be kind, no matter how you/I treat me/you? That’s what this post will be about.

I was given a link to a broadcast from talk radio called The Good Show and that is what sparked this particular blog post and the preceding discussion with myself. The specific broadcast I listened to is called “One Good Deed Deserves Another” and you can listen to it here: http://www.radiolab.org/2010/dec/14/one-good-deed-deserves-another/ (and even though I’m going to summarize it for you, I encourage you to listen to it at least once).

There is a computer programming geek named Robert Axelrod. He first started exploring altruism during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 wherein he wondered if Cuba would stop building bombs, we would stop building bombs and thus, everything turns out fine. But what if Cuba didn’t stop building bombs and we did? That’s a problem, isn’t it? Next, insert the theory behind the Prisoner’s Dilemma: “The prisoner’s dilemma is a canonical example of a game analyzed in game theory that shows why two individuals might not cooperate, even if it appears that it is in their best interests to do so.” The example used in the particular broadcast I listened to went something like this: Two robbers, Joe and Lucky, are standing outside the First National Bank and are picked up by the police because they had received a tip that Joe and Lucky were about to rob the bank. The officers put Joe and Lucky in two separate interrogation rooms and made Lucky an offer: “We have enough on you to lock you up for 6 months. If you rat out Joe and Joe says nothing, you will go free and Joe gets 10 years in prison. If the reverse happens, you say nothing and Joe rats you out, he goes free and you get 10 years in prison. If you both rat each other out, you will both receive 5 years in prison. If neither of you says anything, you both get 6 months in jail.” What would you do? I, along with the broadcasters of the show, would throw the other person under the bus…IF I didn’t know them. If I knew them…as in they are a friend or in my social circle…I’d be more inclined to “compromise”, as in not say anything and hope my friend wouldn’t either. Then we do our time and get out, on good terms (hopefully), because no one threw someone under the bus.

Based on this idea, Robert Axelrod created a computer programming “tournament” and to enter, you had to submit a computer program that essentially plays out the Prisoner’s Dilemma. It would be a round robin tournament and each program would play every other program 200 times to see which strategy would work…to “be nice” or to “defect” (which, from here on out in this post, means to throw someone under the bus/screw another person over). Only one program could “win”/prosper/survive.

One program was called Massive Retaliatory Strike: On the first move made, it cooperates (is “nice”) but as soon as the other program it’s playing stops cooperating, the Massive Retaliatory Strike program would retaliate from there on out, no exceptions, even if the first program went back to being “nice”. In other words, once MRS’s trust was broken, it would never trust you again…game over.

Another program was called Tester: This program would see what the other program was like first, starting out by being mean and when the other program retaliated, Tester would back off and “change its tune” and cooperate for a while…”How much can I get away with?”…essentially testing the other program’s limits.

When Tester played Massive Retaliatory Strike 200 times, Tester always defected (screwed the other person over) and MRS would never cooperate again and both programs failed.

The assumption was made that the winning program would contain thousands of lines of code. But the program that actually “won”/survived/prospered only contained two lines of code. TWO. That program was called Tit For Tat. The first line of code was “be nice”…as in the program will never be nasty FIRST. The second line of code does what the program’s opponent did in its previous move. So, for example, if Program 1 cooperates, Tit For Tat cooperates. If Program 1 defects, Tit For Tat defects…but JUST that one time unless Tit For Tat is further provoked. Unlike MRS, where it will continue to retaliate no matter how “nice” the first program is, Tit For Tat will always go back to being nice on its next move, no matter if its last move was a retaliatory move or not. Are you still with me? Most people fall somewhere in the middle of being “always good” (the “Jesus Program”) and “always bad” (the “Lucifer Program”). Tit For Tat starts by cooperating, as does Jesus (this is just an example, y’all…don’t get your religion panties in a knot) and then keeps cooperating because the Jesus Program is always good, therefore Tit For Tat is always good. If Tit For Tat plays the Lucifer Program, there’s no chance of ever cooperating, thus Tit For Tat will never be nice/cooperate, even if it makes the first move (remember, Tit For Tat’s first line of code was “be nice”) because the Lucifer Program will never be good/cooperate. Everyone stays “even”. I hope you’re still with me.

(There is another great example in the radio broadcast I linked earlier involving the British and German armed forces during World War I. In order to keep your attention, I will refrain from summarizing it here.)

Tit For Tat is upright and forgiving, but not retaliatory. Not 100% turn the other cheek but an eye for an eye…just not TEN eyes for an eye. Tit For Tat echoes…it echoes good and bad. If you were to modify the second line of code for Tit For Tat, the retaliation line, to not always retaliate…maybe only to retaliate 10% of the time…you would get a “generous” Tit For Tat. So sometimes you/the program reacts with an eye for an eye approach…and sometimes you turn the other cheek. For example: When someone punches you, you are naturally inclined to punch them back. But in some situations, is it not best to just turn and walk away? What it comes down to is choice. You have a choice to retaliate and you have a choice to walk away. Choosing what to do in each situation is the hard part.

So that was all a summary of what was said in the radio broadcast. Now we’ll get to why this means anything to me and why I was asked to listen to it. It is not a news flash that my mom and I feed off of each other’s emotions and I tend to adopt a “Tit For Tat” attitude in that if my mom is nice, I’m more inclined to be nice in return. However, if she is invalidating and disrespectful, while I won’t necessarily be that way in return (“retaliate”), I’m no longer inclined to be outwardly nice or make the extra effort to do so. I don’t go out of my way to be rude or disrespectful, but I won’t go out of my way to be nice either. However, when it’s time to “play” again, I will start off by being nice until she again gives me a reason not to be. Just like in the Tit For Tat program, my first “line of code” is to be nice and I will usually go back to being nice until I am “provoked” again. Does that make sense? It gets tricky and nothing is absolute. I sometimes find myself bending over backwards to be nice and courteous in an effort to just get her to be nice and loving in return. (And if you must know, that method doesn’t usually work out too well for me; it often leaves me spent and makes me question why I continue to do it/continue to try, already knowing what the end result will be.) This goes further than my mother of course. It can be as simple as driving on the freeway. If you’re nice and let me merge properly without being a jackass or tailing me because you’re mad that I “cut in line”, I’m more inclined to let you merge when your lane ends due to construction. However, if you cut me off because you don’t have the patience to be in the lane you’re in, and your new lane is ending due to construction or merging, FUCK YOU if you think I’m going to let you merge in front of me. Then I will go back to my first line of code…being nice…so if I see you on the freeway tomorrow, I will again let you merge in front of me unless you give me a reason not to. Okay maybe using my driving examples wasn’t a good idea…

I love hard and with all that I have. But once bitten, twice shy. I sometimes worry about “smothering” my friends with affection and warm fuzzies because I don’t want them to think I’m clingy and while I’m by no means trying to buy their love and affection or even get them to reciprocate warm fuzzies, I would wager that that is subconsciously part of my motivation…to love them so that they will love me in return. But in all honesty, I love to love and you don’t have to be my BFF in order for me to mail you a warm fuzzy just to make you smile. I enjoy knowing that I simply made someone’s day/moment, no matter how I know them or how close they are to me and my heart. Remember: my first line of code is “be nice”.

I feel like I’m rambling now and not making sense. Fuck it…half of my blog is me rambling…

In my “Vulnerability” blog post, I said that usually, if I get burned in a friendship, I won’t write off that friendship and discard it immediately just because I got upset…I would just tweak it to avoid getting hurt again…which may lead you to “retaliate” or punish me because you got hurt as well or you’re just that mad at whatever transpired. In such a case, the door is usually open for you to return, but I will not stand here and hold it open. I have made the effort, said my peace, and the ball is now in your court. The decision is now yours as to whether or not you want to continue the relationship, continue to retaliate, or do some of your own tweaking. I will not sit here and retaliate against you nor will I throw you under the bus…BUT…I may no longer go out of my way to be nice either. That doesn’t mean I will be rude or go out of my way to be mean, but I will probably no longer extend my hand willingly to you…unless you ask for it. I will no longer actively seek you out once the ball is in your court. If I have said my peace (reverting back to my first line of code…”being nice”) and you want to continue our relationship, you will have to come to me. I have “stated my case” and I am at peace with whatever you choose to do…to stay or walk away. I will not hold grudges or continue to be hurt over a hiccup in our relationship once the hiccup is done and over with. In other words, I will not retaliate against you or hurt you just because you hurt me. I feel like I’m making no sense because none of this is absolute. If you hurt me (and for the purposes of this post, I mean emotionally hurt me versus physically hurt me), I may very well end the relationship because I’m not very good at forgiving, depending on the severity of the hurt and what happened. (For example, a small miscommunication or misunderstanding is easily forgivable…breaking my trust or hurting me severely in some form is not.) But just because I (or you) end our relationship does not make me want to go and divulge everything you’ve ever confided in me nor does it make me want to go and defame your character. That is not how I like to roll. I may vent about the situation/relationship to my therapist and I may perhaps write about it here but in either case, you are “protected” because everything I say to my therapist is confidential and I write this anonymously. With the exception of really only one past relationship, I cannot think of an instance where I would want to waste my time and my reader’s time bashing someone. It’s not worth it and it’s not the purpose of this blog. It’s over and done with. Hopefully I can resolve what I need to resolve using my coping skills and talking with my therapist and be fine. I don’t need to waste more time on someone who apparently wasn’t worth my time and effort to begin with. I will again go back to my first line of code…being nice.

I believe all things happen for a reason and everyone that comes into your life is either a lesson or a blessing. And you know what? Some lessons are hard to learn…but we have to learn them. You are responsible for and can actively choose how you behave, who you let in and out of your life, how you treat them, and what you say and don’t say. If someone defects and retaliates against you, you have a choice to retaliate in return, with an eye for an eye attitude…and you have a choice to turn the other cheek and walk away. For me personally, each situation and relationship is different, so what I would do will never be absolute (as in I will not always retaliate nor will I always walk away). Every person, situation, and relationship is unique and should be treated as such…and I do my best to do so objectively.

When all is said and done, I think what this all comes down to is choice. You have a choice…control…over what you say and how you behave. You have a choice in how to REact. You do NOT, however, have a choice…control…over what someone else says or how someone else behaves.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K9F5xcpjDMU]
Advertisements

It matters.

20130610-020956.jpg I think I’ve mentioned starfish at least once or twice in this chaotic mess that is my blog…but I don’t think I’ve ever said why. As for why I chose this particular moment in time to share why, it’s been on my mind. A lot. I’ve done a lot of talking to a particular friend lately and the subject of “little things matter” has come up. A lot.

The Starfish Story has been told and retold, but the original story (“The Star Thrower”) was written by a man named Loren Eisley. I adopted this story/message about eight-ish years ago. I don’t even remember how it came to cross my path, how I found it, or where/when I heard it. But when I did, it took root within my soul and still continues to do so to this day. I consider the Starfish Story to be…my mantra?…my “rule book”?…the driving force behind all that I do? Regardless of what you want to call it, the story has great meaning to me and its message is one I not only want to exude, it’s one I want to share/spread. I often use the story to illustrate/explain why the little things matter and/or how one simple action/decision can make a difference. Yes, sometimes it’s a bad/hurtful difference, but the way I share/talk/use it focuses on a good/positive difference. I also use the story to thank people who have “thrown me back into the ocean”…explaining to them how/why whatever they did or said mattered…if only to this one…if only to me.

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring…all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” ~ Leo F. Bascalgia

“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” ~ Maya Angelou

I’ve written many times about the impact of words and how a simple act of caring could mean the world to someone, even if you never knew it…even if you didn’t think what you did/said mattered. If you take anything away from this, take with you the knowledge that you not only have the ability to make a difference, big or small…you have probably already made a difference for someone whether you know it or not.

So…without further ado…the Starfish Story:

A young girl was walking along a beach after the tide had gone out, leaving thousands of starfish strewn up and down the shoreline. When she came to each starfish, she picked it up and threw it back into the ocean.

She had been doing this for some time when an old man approached her and said, “Little girl, why are you doing this?” The girl answered, “If I don’t throw them back into the water, they’ll die.” “Look at this beach!” the man said. “There are miles and miles of beach. You can’t possibly save all these starfish!”

The girl smiled politely at the man, then bent down, picked up another starfish, and hurled it as far as she could into the ocean. Then she looked up at the man and replied, “I made a difference for that one.”

 

No post of mine is ever complete without a song: “Starfish” by Sara Groves

Words

20130415-025240.jpg

I am a quote whore-der. I love them…I can find one to give someone no matter the situation or topic…and sometimes, quotes articulate a thought, feeling or message better than I can with my own words. Words are powerful things…that sticks and stones ditty is a load of crap because words can hurt you. I was too lazy to go through my quote collection and put the following quotes in my post from the other day (God, love, honesty and cussing.) and I was going to go back and edit that post and add these as they are related to that post…but I decided to put them in their own post instead.

“Beam me up…make me lighter, I’m tired of being a fighter.” ~ P!nk, Beam Me Up

“Sometimes you put walls up not to keep people out, but to see who cares enough to break them down.” ~ Unknown

“You’ll never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have.”

“Some nights I wish that this all would end ’cause I could use some friends for a change.” ~ fun., Some Nights

“It’s hard to wait around for something you know might never happen, but it’s even harder to give up when you know it’s everything you want.”

“The edge… There is no honest way to explain it because the only people who really know where it is are the ones who have gone over.” ~ Hunter S. Thompson

“Don’t fuck with people’s feelings just because you can’t figure out what’s going on in your own messed up head.”

“The loneliest people are the kindest. The saddest people smile the brightest. The most damaged people are the wisest…all because they do not wish to see anyone else suffer the way they do.” ~ Unknown

“The people who laugh the most have experienced the most pain.”

“I’m so tired but I can’t sleep…standin’ on the edge of something much too deep. It’s funny how we feel so much but we cannot say a word.” ~ Sarah McLachlan, I Will Remember You

“It’s easier to say you’re mad than to admit you’re hurt.”

“No you don’t know what it’s like, when nothing feels alright…you don’t know what it’s like to be like me.” ~ Simple Plan, Welcome To My Life

“I’ve found that the saddest people in life are also the funniest…and only those who understand complexity can communicate simplicity.”

“Sanity and happiness are an impossible combination.” ~ Mark Twain

“All it takes is a beautiful fake smile to hide an injured soul and they will never notice how broken you really are.”

“Depression is like a bruise that never goes away. A bruise in your mind. You just got to be careful not to touch it where it hurts. It’s always there, though.” ~ Jeffrey Eugenides

“Sometimes tears are a sign of unspoken happiness and a smile is a sign of silent pain.”

“Don’t ever mistake my silence for ignorance, my calmness for acceptance and my kindness for weakness.”

“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensiivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.” ~ Elizabeth Kubler-Ross

“No matter how strong a person is, they have a weak point and sometimes all they need is a hug.”

“There’s always a little truth behind every ‘just kidding’…a little knowledge behind every ‘I don’t know’…a little emotion behind every ‘I don’t care’…and a little pain behind every ‘it’s okay’.”

“Life has many ways of testing a person’s will, either by having nothing happen at all or by having everything happen all at once.” ~ Paulo Coelho

“Sometimes we expect more from others because we would be willing to do that much for them.”

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring…all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” ~ Leo F. Buscaglia

“Do not ask me the price I paid. I must live with my quiet rage…tame the ghosts in my head that run wild and wish me dead.” ~ Mumford & Songs, Lover’s Eyes

“There’s a difference between giving up and knowing when you’ve had enough.”

“If you had not suffered as you have, there would be no depth to you, no humility, no compassion.” ~ Eckhart Tolle

“Don’t ignore someone you care about because lack of concern hurts more than angry words.” ~ Unknown

“What is depression like?” he whispered. “It’s like drowning. Except you can see everyone around you breathing.”

“The strongest people are not those who show strength in front of others but who win battles we know nothing about.”

“The person who cares a lot for others is the one who needs more care than others. The person who makes others laugh and smile often is the one who holds a lot of pain in their heart. The person who tries to be a good friend to everyone is the one who needs a best friend of their own. The person who always smiles and says, ‘I’m fine.’ is the one who is broken-hearted…but still strong enough to believe that in the end, everything will be okay.”

“It was hard to be honest, to open up and reveal something that sounded crazy. Because once you told someone the truth, that person had a piece of you – and they could belittle it, destroy it. They could turn your confession into a wound that never healed.” ~ Sarah Cross

“A word of encouragement during a failure is worth more than an hour of praise after success.”

“She did not need much. Wanted very little. A kind word. Sincerity. Fresh air. Clean water. A garden. Kisses. Books to read. Sheltering arms. A cozy bed. And to love and be loved in return.” ~ Starra Neely Blade

“Behind my smile is everything you will never understand.”

“The best people possess a feeling for beauty, the courage to take risks, the discipline to tell the truth, the capacity for sacrifice. Ironically, their virtues make them vulnerable; they are often wounded, sometimes destroyed.” ~ Ernest Hemingway

“The worst part about being strong is that no one ever asks if you’re okay.”

“I used to think the worst thing in life was being alone; it’s not. The worst thing in life is to end up with people that make you feel all alone.” ~ Robin Williams

“People who are not depressed see the world as they want to see it. People who are depresseed see the world the way it actually is.”

“Mosters are real. Ghosts are real too. They live inside us…and sometimes they win.” ~ Stephen King

“It’s the loneliest feeling in the world – to find yourself standing up when everyone else is sitting down. To have everybody look at you and say, ‘What’s the matter with her?’ I know what it feels like. Walking down an empty street, listening to the sound of your footsteps. Shutters closed, blinds drawn, doors locked against you. And you aren’t sure whether you’re walking towards something or if you’re just walking away.”

“The biggest disease this day and age is that of people feeling unloved.” ~ Princess Diana

“Everyone says love hurts, but that is not true. Loneliness hurts. Rejection hurts. Losing someone hurts. Envy hurts. Everyone gets these things confused with love. But in reality, love is the only thing in this world that covers up all pain and makes someone feel wonderful again.”

“I just want to hold you, take you by the hand and tell you that you are enough.” ~ Kings of Leon, The End

“It’s easy to look at people and make quick judgements about them, their present and their past, but you’d be amazed at the pain and tears a single smile hides. What a person shows to the world is only one tiny facet of the iceberg hidden from sight. And more often than not, it’s lined with cracks and scars that go all the way to the foundation of their soul.” ~ Sherrilyn Kenyon

“Loneliness does not come from having no people around one, but from being unable to communicate the things that seem important to oneself, or from holding certain views which others find inadmissible.” ~ Carl Jung