July 1, 1996

Spotting the enemy

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Users and abusers are people who come up close to take not to give. Their motive is bad, and the result is usually a sore spot on your soul. Users learn their techniques early, some even as young children.

But spotting them is like spotting a wolf in sheep’s clothing—not always easy. Beneath the smile and the fake lamb ears is a vicious soul ready to pounce. Jesus talking to his followers in the New Testament told them to be careful of just such people and situations. Obviously, this isn’t a new problem.

Jim was very sly about his manipulation. He’s what you’d call a user. Others are more upfront—they call you when they need something from you, but offer nothing in return. These abusers will tell you outright that they need something from you—information, money, help, love, whatever. But they don’t wait for you to volunteer it; instead they demand it, using whatever means necessary.

Then there are the confusers, those people who just have a way of clouding any situation. And be very clear it is a tactical maneuver on their part. The know if they can keep things confusing or keep people at odds with each other they can steal an advantage.

Work for something because it is good, not just because it stands a chance to succeed.—Vaclav Havel

Pulling the Golden Ruler from your Power of One toolbox will help you identify this tendency in yourself. Are you a user, abuser, or confuser? Not sure? Ask yourself these questions:

Am I treating others well?
● In other words, am I treating others as I’d like to be treated?
● Am I asking them for things with pure—and transparent—intentions?

Am I treating them right?
● Do I handle all situations with people, whether my spouse, children, friends, or co-workers, ethically?
● Would others say I treat them fairly? Even if they knew my intentions?

Am I communicating truth?
● Do I have to shade the truth or squeeze it a little to get my deal done?
● Am I operating with two sets of books?

If three green lights come up you’re probably treating people the way you would want to be treated. If not, then ask yourself:

1. Have you ever been taken advantage of? Describe the situation.

2. What does it feel like to be taken advantage of?

3. Have you ever taken advantage of someone else? What was the situation?

4. Why did I take advantage of people? What was my rationale?

The Power of One means that I come to grips that I will sometimes be treated unfairly or incorrectly but that will not deter me from the golden walk.

It’s not enough to refrain from taking advantage of others. Another way of practicing the Power of One is reacting graciously when others take advantage of you—while not allowing them to walk all over you. Which of the following ways do you usually respond when taken advantage of?

1. Lash out and get back quick. Do you practice the eye-for-an-eye style of revenge when others wrong you? Do you speak with a sharp tongue, inflicting pain on others? Do you return bite for bite with quick reflex?

Revenge is often like biting a dog because the dog bit you.– Austin O’Malley

2. Ignore and deny. “Oh, they didn’t mean to do anything wrong, and honestly I don’t really think they did anything wrong.” That’s the common refrain of many abuse victims. This quickly turns into a pattern of denial that becomes very destructive to all concerned.

3. Harbor deep resolve to get revenge. In this case, a high-octane resentment fuels the fire. Revenge means not just lashing out, but getting back at others. If you take revenge, you’ll be taking advantage of others—obviously, not the best tactic.

He that studieth revenge keepeth his own wounds green, which otherwise would heal and do well. – John Milton

4. Become mistrusting of all people. You see this happen often. People who’ve been taken advantage of many times over will have a hard time trusting others—even when the people they’re with have given them plenty of reason to trust them.

5. Turn the other cheek. When someone slaps, this person chooses to keep on moving without letting it phase him. He doesn’t stick around, however, for it to happen again—he just forgives and forgets.

Never does the human soul appear so strong and noble as when it foregoes revenge, and dares to forgive an injury.– Edwin Hubbel Chapin

Do you see yourself in any of these descriptions? What made you this way? Identify your style—then figure out whether it’s really the best style. Obviously, turning the other cheek is ideal. How can you strive to do this?

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