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People Have to Make Up Their Own Minds

·442 words·3 mins

The first time I met Hilda, she started making fun of people we both knew. She’d been renting a room from them and had left it trashed. A total mess.

Hilda had no idea, but I was the person who actually cleaned up the room that she’d trashed. I’d crawled under the bed she left and found the crusted utensils. I’d scraped cat shit off the rug. Helping to restore it to its former state so my friends could rent it to someone else.

But Hilda didn’t know this. And as I stood there, in our very first interaction, she started talking about how these mutual contacts were spreading lies about her. That room was immaculate. Always had been. How dare they spread lies.

My blood froze in my veins as I listened to her start by defending herself and then move quickly to berating these mutual friends. She mocked them and tore them down.

This person is dangerous, I thought. They rewrite history and they don’t just do it to defend themselves. They’re quick to deflect that blame onto other people and full-on attack them.

It was a tricky situation, however, as Hilda was extremely close friends with other people I cared about. And they thought she was wonderful.

I’ll have to tread carefully here, I thought.

I could have contradicted Hilda then — but I could see where that would lead. I decided then to be careful around her. And to never get close.

And I’d keep an eye on her because of my close friends who I was fairly certain would be hurt by her eventually. When I saw an opening to talk to them about it, I would say something.

But I knew all too well how much we don’t want to believe bad things about the people we’re close to. It can be frustrating, but people have to make up their own minds. If you turn into the town crier when no one asked you to, it’s a bit like going on an unsolicited advice spree. Very few people will listen. Most will find you profoundly annoying.

If people had concerns and asked, I told the truth. But very few people asked.

Eventually it did all come to pass — Hilda burned every bridge around her. And I was there to share my experiences when folks were open to it.

Interestingly, I didn’t get a lot of, “I wish you had told me about her,” like I’d feared. Instead, I got nods. “She had us all fooled,” one friend said. “It wouldn’t have done any good. I’m just glad you figured it out early and protected yourself.”


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