Personal Journeys with Gramma

Life adventures, inspiration and insight; shared in articles, advice, personal chats and pictures.

Useful or Being Used? How Can You Tell the Difference?

A dear friend who was dying, took my hand. “People told me I used you,” she said tearfully. “I guess they were right. But I didn’t mean to. I love you.”

I reassured her, but I knew the accusations were true. She had used me—to help her survive. A Native American, she was also severely dyslexic. Her life had been a nightmare, a story no one could write because no one would want to relive it even vicariously.

Why did I let her use me? Because I knew I had so many advantages—the white skin advantage, the empathetic advantage, the well-schooled advantage—especially the advantage of having been loved all my life. I felt I owed her something. I haven’t found a way to share my blessings with every person who has been shortchanged by life, but I could help her. I edited and typed for her. I tended her horse. I listened to her. It wasn’t much of a donation for me to make. She paid me back handsomely with her friendship.

Being used has a negative connotation. It implies you’re a victim of sorts. And sometimes you are—when you’re used by someone who is dishonest. When a person or organization tells you something, knowing what they’re saying is a lie designed to get you to cooperate, you’re being used in a terrible way. It insults your personhood. Some don’t mind being used as long as the user is telling them what they want to hear: I love you; I’m taking care of you; You matter.

If you suspect you’re being badly used and let it happen, then you bear some of the responsibility. You’re choosing to be the goat. The consequences of your cooperation in the deceptions will be yours. I had a student who told me she knew her boyfriend was mistreating her, but she liked “bad boys.” Her wounds were partially self-inflicted. Those of us who worked as teachers in one capacity or another tried desperately to give our students tools to help them identify lies, bad logic, and faulty evidence. We tried to inoculate them against being manipulated. Speaking for myself, I had plenty of students who ignored the information.

Many people have used me since my friend died. In each case, being used was my choice—a choice to be useful. There are demands I ignore, but I was given so much in my life, I think I would be unforgivably ungrateful not to share what I can with those who can take my tiny intellectual and emotional donations and make them grow. I hope I can find outlets for my gifts until the day I die. I believe that was the point of my being here in the first place.

One comment on “Useful or Being Used? How Can You Tell the Difference?

  1. Frances Sullivan
    August 27, 2017

    So beautiful. And so true. Our choice. xx

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