It is as cliché to disavow New Year’s resolutions as it is to announce one. As time passes and events transpire, what comes of these ambitions is up to us.  Reflecting on an entire year can be a triumphant task or a painful burden. Whether it is either or it is both, we might all agree that it is certainly a waste to forgo reexamining twelve months past of remains for the pieces of gold that might be mined from the dirt of 2021. Upon deep reflection on one of the most personally turbulent, yet successful, years thus far – these are some of the most valuable insights I’m bringing with me as we learn to embrace another January.


It is worth understanding that when someone says something with the intention of causing pain, it should never be taken personally. The business end of a fully loaded insult is uncomfortable. Considering who brandishes the words, it can be difficult for even the coldest of temperaments to deflect. Every thought communicated is filtered four times before being accepted: First, it is filtered by biases, experiences, and intentions. Second, it is filtered through language– after all, insights are limited to the vocabulary at our disposal. Third, it is filtered by the ears of the recipient. Fourth, and finally, it is filtered by the biases, experiences, and perceptions of the recipient. By the end of this process, we have a choice. We can accept the insult at face value, or we can analyze the content of it for embedded truths. The key to raising immunity to insults is understanding that insults don’t hurt because they are unkind. Insults hurt only when you believe them.

Think of something as basic as tying your shoes. If someone tries to insult you by saying you don’t know the first thing about tying your shoes, the words will roll right off you and cause little more suffering than brief confusion. You will leave the encounter doubting the general aptitude of the person that said it because you know beyond all doubt that you can, indeed, tie your shoes. The only difference between this and an example of something that would arouse anger or sadness is in belief. When someone insults you and it hurts, the response should not be planning how to hurt them back but to wonder what part of you believed it. What did those words connect with in your mind that you didn’t want exposed? Who implanted the idea for the insult to find a home in to provoke a raw, emotional response? What part of the insult do you believe to be true? A moment to consider the source of perceived truth can be the difference between a momentary flash of irritation and days of lingering anxiety.

A paradoxical dilemma arises when we are greeted with compliments. Compliments typically feel awkward. We shy away from them, playfully tell others to stop, and self-deprecate in response. To accept them openly strikes others as conceited. How masochistic we are to accept our beatings when we’re insulted but cower away from kindness we can own. The answer to this problem is just the inverse of the reason why insults hurt. We shy away from compliments because we don’t believe them. There is nothing to analyze when someone tells us we look good. There is little to ponder when someone recognizes a job well done. Too many compliments even seem suspicious. When a compliment is received this way, it is helpful to ask why there is nothing within that it connects with. What has been missing for the compliment to land in your mind and find nowhere to go? Compliments should not only be accepted but should be accommodated in the mind as a welcome guest. If a good thing is pointed out, it means your existence is making a positive contribution to your environment. Something commendable being noticed should highlight a facet of yourself to be embraced and nurtured. Forget about seeming conceited. Accepting a compliment doesn’t imply goodness about you in relation to others, but only the goodness in you..


It’s logical to think that having the least amount of people thinking negatively of you is ideal. This goal, however, is frankly impossible. It’s much deeper than an ability to control the thoughts and perceptions of others. Such an undertaking distracts you from what guards you from negative perspectives in the first place. Putting too much effort into looking virtuous keeps you from being virtuous at all. The intent behind your words and actions is limited to the cheapest form of value, given that face value has been given top priority. It is okay for others to have misconceptions about you. You are not responsible for outside opinions. You are only responsible for doing what you know to be the right thing. The most powerful person is not the one that knows the most or is the strongest but is someone with a clean conscience. This is what enables someone to say anything they need to without their skeletons blocking their words. The only thing anyone has against you is whatever they’ve lied about or whatever you’ve given them. The former is easier to diffuse when the latter doesn’t exist.

We play roles in the lives of others. We don’t always get the role we audition for. The hardest part of owning your story is convincing others you aren’t the bad guy. Sometimes, it isn’t even worth it to try convincing anyone, and the best you can do is be a terrible villain by being a decent person. People aren’t wrong for classifying people in this way. Everyone is the main character in their own story. If someone writes you in as a villain, sometimes the best you can do is keep from letting your character arc make any sense. Ultimately, you must keep from having this affect your own story. The modern self-development trend has warped this concept. We’ve learned to relish unmitigated selfishness in the name of hyper independence. It isn’t entirely our fault. Current means of connection have not evolved to encompass more than surface level reactions. The reactions of others have taken on a monetary quality. We shouldn’t misunderstand that split second reactions are the way we gauge our thoughts and actions against the world. Applying this in the online sphere means being careful about what your online presence consists of. The problem with gauging single-click reactions online is the initial reaction is where the process stops. It also means understanding that others are going to decide how to perceive you anyway. Sometimes the best you can do is to not give anyone, now or in the future, any ammunition against you in a world that crystalizes itself within a split second of scrolling.

People can come together and attempt to connect on any basis. If the combination of attachment styles, personality traits, communication styles, and common perspectives does not align well enough, there sometimes is no recourse for connecting. Neither one must be an objectively bad person. But suffering can be caused by nothing more than incompatibility realized too late. Sometimes conflict needs to happen. Sometimes the best thing you can do is keep from fighting dirty. Opinions are hard to change because other perspectives do not belong to you. It is hard enough to manage your own thoughts and biases, let alone mitigate others. The height of freedom is living in such a way that anyone villainizing you is wrong and being okay with them doing it.


I had a really hard time with letting people go. It didn’t matter what role the person played in my life. The dread associated with saying goodbye to even the most benign of connections led me to hang on to relationships that were damaging. I was asked many times why I wanted to keep someone around. Most of those times I had no idea. It wasn’t until I had been in therapy for a little under two years that I began to understand it. My fear of death was so pervasive that any kind of death was mentally and emotionally indistinguishable from another. I had to learn that there are three entities in any relationship: There is you, the other person, and the combination of the two of you. To end a relationship of any kind is not simply witnessing the death of that person to you, but the death of the “person” that was made up of the two of you. Whatever you and they combined to create is lost, never to produce anything of shared substance again.

It is worth understanding that decisions such as these should not be taken lightly. If your initial reaction to any relationship transgression is to delete their existence to you, you may have some issues to sort out. But if the relationship is taking more than it gives it may be time to let go. When it is decided to let go, it must be done brutally. Brutally, in this sense, does not mean with malice or contempt. There is nothing gained from ending a bond with the intent to leave wounds on the way out. Cutting brutally means totally, indefinitely, and with finality. If this seems cold and ruthless, I can promise you there is nothing virtuous about delaying someone’s healing. It is hard. It feels impossible. If it feels like part of you is dying, that’s because that is exactly what is happening. We like to think of healing as a process of comfort. We talk about healing as a linear process of improvement little by little. A realistic picture of healing is dark and messy. The reason for the falling out does not matter. There is a death to be mourned and it must be taken seriously. It is not enough to say that everything will be okay. Everything will be okay, but everything will become different. The act of mourning does not aim to soothe, but to embrace a heavy loss. It does not promise that anything will ever go back to normal, but that a new normal will be established. This new normal can be as gloomy or as bright as you make it to be. It cannot be made into anything good if emotions from the loss are merely suppressed.


You can love someone and lie to them. You can love someone and betray them. You can love someone and berate them. Love can motivate you to resolve not to treat someone poorly. Love will not guarantee that you won’t. For all of the things love is strong enough to do, it doesn’t come with the automatic attributes needed to maintain it. Love is extremely complicated. It is the force that can almost completely distract us from fearing death but still can’t keep us from being careless with the affections of others. Choices are the bridge between feeling love and maintaining it. I can love a significant other but still raise my voice during arguments if I have unresolved trauma that makes me prone to anger. Love will make me feel remorse at having spoken so disrespectfully. I still have to choose to go to therapy and work on my anger. The love is the same either way. The choice is what is needed to keep it.

Sometimes the choices are made, but the timing isn’t right. Maybe the choices don’t come in the right combination to keep the love growing. Sometimes there is too much hurt to forgive in time for the love to be salvaged. Those who think that love alone will get them through are being terribly naïve. Love is needed. But the things that foster love need to be chosen. The same love that justifies being the truest and best version of you to someone else can be twisted and used to justify violating boundaries and coercing control. Only enough love and respect for yourself can push you to choose to walk away. When you have grown to understand that the reciprocity necessary for any relationship to thrive isn’t there, you must take all the love you can gather with you and leave. The love still exists but is being exhausted at a pace it can’t maintain. While we want to believe that love conquers all, love is not suited for the job all on its own. If the love doesn’t push you to make the choices necessary to nurture it and make it grow, it just isn’t enough.


Growth is a wide-ranging and continuous process. I have forfeited plenty of opportunities to stop and rummage through the rubble of numerous recent-pasts. What I failed to take note of didn’t dissipate, but compounded over time, leaving hard lessons for me to learn as the stakes kept getting higher. It is beneath a grown man to forgo setting markers of progress and taking the profits of experience with him. We earn status commensurate with a combination of abilities, attributes, and contributions. Each facet of our status is ultimately based in our character. There is too much to lose when we don’t take who we’ve become into account. There are worlds to gain if we face the hard truths head-on. Happy New Year, gentlemen.