DEAR CAROLYN: You have obviously never been excluded like [the sister in the Nov. 17 column, http://.bit.ly/Huffy1]. I have. I have done the “mature thing” and told them. Their excuse is that I don’t live near them so it’s not that easy. However on several occasions they have gone to events near me and never called to see if I wanted to go.
But it’s not only me, it’s my son as well. My nieces will post things they do and not even think of inviting him. But that’s another story.
So I have been doing petty things like passive comments on Facebook. Do I hope this hurts them? Damn straight I do. I will see them during the holidays and I will do my best to make it as toxic as possible without downright alienating them.
Sometimes you have to make people suffer to see what is wrong.
DEAR LEFT OUT: No. No you don’t.
When you deliberately “make it as toxic as possible” with “petty things,” you merely confirm for them their wisdom in avoiding you whenever and however possible.
And make the world just a little bit worse.
You’re wrong in another significant way, too. I have been excluded — like the sister, yes, and in other ways subtle, obvious, accidental, mindful, indifferent, cruel, mild, devastating … and that’s just counting the exclusions I actually know about. Like everyone.
Not one instance justified revenge.
All of them justified some version of the “mature thing.” Which I wasn’t always mature enough to do, granted, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t called for.
That your exclusion affects your son makes your situation even worse, I agree — which is all the more reason not to add injury to those insults by being a lousy role model for him.
Here’s the beauty and burden of maturity: It is not a means to an end. It’s an end unto itself.
You, appropriately, told your siblings you felt hurt — but you seem to think that effort was a failure because they didn’t change their ways and stop excluding you.
If the only reason you were honest with them was to get yourself invited to the next event, though, then your honesty was just one half of a transaction. Which is fine — there’s nothing wrong with saying, “Hey, I would have loved to do [event] with you, so please call me next time” — as long as you recognize it for what it is.
It is not an act of maturity when you do it only to get what you want — and emphatically not so when you punish others for not completing the transaction the way you expect them to.
Maturity is admitting to people you’re hurt — or choosing to make your own peace and not say anything — because you believe it’s the right thing to do, then moving forward from there with decency, civility and pride. And if the exclusion continues, it’s saying to yourself, “I am not part of their inner circle; it hurts; I’ve responded to that pain as well as I could; I will now invest my energy in people who want me in their lives.”
Maturity is modeling this for your son, please. So people will include him more, yes, and so he doesn’t collapse into spite when they don’t.
Email Carolyn at firstname.lastname@example.org or chat with her online at 10 a.m. each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.