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February 1, 2014

DODD: Life as we know it

“When you choose your friends, don’t be short-changed by choosing personality over character.” — W. Somerset Maugham

One night I had a friend call me over to their house. Their career as they knew it had just ended. Their personal life was in turmoil. They wanted to tell me their side of the story.

It was a long story full of accusations and defenses. When it ended I had a very simple response: “If you did it you got what you deserved and if it isn’t true then you really got the shaft. Either way you are my friend.”

In a little more than a year I have known several people whose lives as they know it have been all but devastated. Their reputations suffered in a public way. In a couple of cases, it has been in a very public way. Their livelihoods have been altered and futures were or are in doubt.

In each case I let them know the same thing. If they ever needed to talk, just let me know. Loyalty to friends has always been a big thing with me. I am a very forgiving person. I am that way because of things I did in my past for which I was forgiven by my friends.

In some cases, when I really needed a friend I found out who were and were not my friends. When you are on top, friends are easy to find. When you lose your way and find yourself way down, they can be few and far between.

In most cases, it didn’t matter to me much if their destruction was self-inflicted or not. I still felt bad for them. I never feel happiness when someone’s life is destroyed.

I am 58 years old. I know how hard it is to build a life and a reputation. As I have learned many times over in my life, a lifetime of good deeds can be all but wiped out by one or a few bad decisions.

I know in my life there have been moments and decisions which could have resulted in some very serious consequences. Especially in my younger life, some decisions I got away with could have all but cost me a secure future. I have been lucky enough to have benefited by my mistakes and gotten away with them rather than having to have paid for all of them.

Many self-destructive actions have been aided by large egos and a sense of indestructibility. Others have been as the result of drugs and alcohol issues. Some have been from infidelities. Almost all of them have been the result of human frailty.

I do agree that we all must answer for our choices and our actions.

However, there have been many times in my life when someone I know has been humbled to the point of complete emotional collapse. That’s not the time to judge. That is the time to be a friend or at the least a compassionate human being.

I have known more than once in my lifetime where a person could not handle the fall. If you have ever known someone who was once a friend that took their own life, it’s a moment you will never forget. In almost every case of that, I have known someone who felt a sense of guilt by not intervening.

I have been down before at a time in my younger life. There were people then that gave me comfort and sometimes food and shelter. They always provided a shoulder to cry on or simply sat and listened to me with a sympathetic and caring ear.

Some of my friends who have been so down in the past have bounced back and done very well in life. They were better people for it. Others never recovered.

In almost every case, I was caused to self-evaluate my life. I have always found it easy to feel in control of my life during good times and felt a bit helpless during the bad.

Some stories are still ongoing with people I know. For them just as for all of us, we really can’t predict the future. Those people I know who have recovered have taught me a lot about character and strength. For those who didn’t make it — hopefully they have taught me humility and understanding.

Life is always an ongoing concern and if there is one thing of which I am certain, my life is still very much a work in progress.

— Lindon Dodd is a freelance writer who can be reached at lindon.dodd@hotmail.com

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