Toughness & Caring: Learning the Hard Way

By Asad Bhatty

This discussion is a kind of wake-up call for some of us.  It will not sugar-coat or whitewash life’s rocky roads in any way.  It will not give money-back guarantees of happiness and success. If, however, you want an honest chat about some of what’s in it for us, please read on.

Bitter Morsels

There will always be good times and bad times.  When we think of good times, many of us tend to re-live the carefree days of childhood.  In most cases the ignorance of innocent childhood is pure bliss.  Generally the days are carefree and cosy.  Within us lighthearted hope springs eternal. We are far removed from adult cares and pressures.  People smile at us while friends and family hover protectively over us.

Then, like an unwanted splash of cold water, we come face to face for the first time with unpleasant realities.  Tales and images that we hold dearly are shattered where justice always prevails and people live happily ever after.

The World Cuts Us No Slack

We all have bright hopes, aspirations and ambitions for our personal lives and our careers that keep us going.  Yet few of us would disagree that it is a harsh world.  We cannot deny that these hopes are affected by the attitudes of those we share everything with.

Our expectations always tend to be higher than life’s realities. Thus to avoid disappointment – nowadays just to stay sane and survive – it is necessary for us to build and develop inner strength and a resolve that stops us from giving up on our hopes, burning out after failures or even crashing altogether.

The demands on everyone are relentless.  We are all expected to juggle several balls in the air at the same time – studies or work, relationships, chores and other tasks, unexpected stresses.  In performing this feat no one gets any special treatment even if they are already weighed down by other concerns.

When others mock our dreams or discourage us, it is easy for us to get flustered.  At such times it is interesting to observe how other people carry themselves and deal with similar situations.  At times they can crash and burn just like us.

Many are lucky to be good actors and do not show their dismay.  Putting on a brave face is winning half the battle. They manage to hide the pain of bad experiences and keep their dignity.

Unexpected Gifts

Our trust is a thing so delicate and so easily broken that over time, we unconsciously encase it in layers of doubt and mistrust.  It is no longer given freely.  Nor should it be, but then we must choose wisely before we turn everyone away as a reflex action.

When we are mocked or picked on a lot, we become suspicious of others.  It is rare but there are still caring people around us.  Once in a while we are offered something priceless – genuine care – but acting on instinct we tend to snub the other person and regret eventually surfaces.  Awareness of this can come at the cost of not knowing true sincerity when we see it, and losing it forever by turning it away.

People’s Perceptions

The hard fact is the world does not walk on eggshells for our sake.  No matter how caring we are, how hard we try, how talented we are or how genuine our inner feelings are, the world at large can and often will treat us without mercy or compassion …and will do so without remorse. Okay, some of us may be lucky and hit the jackpot of happiness.  This hope is what keeps you going.

How do other people look at us?  How well do we really know ourselves?  As an example, let us take a cold, hard look at marriage, the foundation of our society as we know it. Who would not want a caring partner?  After all it is noble intentions and true caring that really count, aren’t they?  Unfortunately, they are not.

Few parents would have the heart to bring up a little child to expect an unfriendly world – whether hostility is due to pure sadism in some people, personal jealousies, bottled-up resentments, bigotry, random frustrations, ‘bad hair days’ or whatever excuses people use for coldness or rudeness towards others.

In many cases we unknowingly sabotage our own relationships by turning out to be the kind of persons our partners did not want.  Maybe we hope for and expect a lot from our marriages, a sentiment exploited by authors and filmmakers looking for fan votes and popularity.  Sadly we know that where we are not wanted, we can give all we want but our partners only seem to notice the wrongs and the mistakes.


Who would not want a sincere friend?  Yet as a society we all ignore and take advantage of  sincerity.  Likewise our so-called friends notice our faults in particular, dwell on them and do not forgive us.   Once in a while just to keep our trust they give us a smile and maybe a cheap treat.  We put up with all this and secretly hope that they will change.  There is a small chance that such friends will ever change until and unless they have a change of heart.

We are also very prone to what we hear.  Keeping in line with our mistrust and suspicions, we are only too willing to accept what we hear. If someone fills our ears with rumours about someone, our attitudes change and we can become very unkind.

Be ready for emotional roller coasters in your social life.  If by some twist of fate we are not doing as well as our ‘successful’ friends in our lives and careers, we are not kept as a part of their ‘chosen’ circle.

Personal Agendas

This phrase is not merely a cliché.  Of course no one will ever admit this, yet by sheer necessity nearly everyone has their own agenda and their own plan of action for their lives. They cannot afford to be distracted by other people’s problems or their inability to cope with them.  As science teaches us regarding all species, it is the ‘survival of the fittest’.  The unfit among us must suffer.

Stop daydreaming about an ideal world.  Learn to adapt to a world that will not care about your problems.  Either adapt or face the consequence of a person who is weaker or unwilling to cope with or accept realities – you will be rudely shunned and ignored.

Damned If You Do, Damned If You Don’t

If you listen to other people they will never let you do anything.  Just remember the classic tale of the father, his son and their donkey.  They set out with the father riding the donkey and the son walking alongside.  ‘What a heartless person,’ people said. ‘Making that poor little boy walk!’

Next he put his son on the donkey’s back and walked alongside them.  ‘What an inconsiderate son,’ people said.  ‘Making his father walk!’

They both got off and walked alongside the donkey.  ‘How stupid they are,’ people now said. ‘They have a donkey to ride and they are walking!’

They both climbed on the donkey.  ‘Oh, that cruel man and that cruel boy,’ people exclaimed. ‘Putting all their weight on that poor animal!’

They ended up tying the donkey’s legs to a pole and the father and the son each carried one end of the pole.  What does this story tell you?  No matter what you do, never try to make satisfying other people your priority in life.

The Unforgiving

One reality you can put in bold letters in your diary is that, contrary to moral assurances to the contrary, nobody ever really forgives anyone.  As mentioned earlier, people even break off blood ties and friendships over things that they refuse to forgive.  Have these people heard both sides of the story?   In most cases, they have not and they don’t want to.

It is extremely rare and very uncommon for people who are hurt and angry to re-consider.  Let us examine any one such situation.  You say something very innocently and a friend interprets it in a totally unexpected way and flares up.  Did you – the one now guilty of offending him or her – say or do anything deliberately?  Were you even aware how your words would be interpreted or in what context?

Ridiculous misunderstandings can ruin a lifetime of closeness.  Some of us are just spontaneous in everything we do and thus open ourselves to a mountain of potential trouble.  How?  We all know people who search for things they can pick on or use as an excuse to put you in a corner.   In this they easily manage to corner a few people.

Be warned!  In talking to others – be careful what you say, who you say it to, where you say it, how you say it and who is present when you say it.  Damn, what a vindictive social mess!   Similarly, in your actions – be careful what you do, who you do it to, where you do it, how you do it and who is present when you do it.  What a messed up world that we don’t even know we live in!

Snap Judgments

Another catch twenty two – impressions and opinions about us are formed by others within moments and these, once they are formed, unfortunately cannot be changed.

We must admit that all of us have at times labelled other people based on such cues as appearance or remarks they have made and we tend to keep them mentally boxed in that particular category. Keeping this common tendency in mind, we can readily imagine someone forming such an opinion about us.

Revealing Oneself

Personal honesty on anyone’s part can be a series of tasty morsels that the people we confide in hungrily eat and then bring up when we least want or expect.  Don’t be too forthcoming about all things.  No matter how badly you may feel the need to do so, never make the mistake of confiding totally in anyone. Yes, nobody – no matter how mature or sincere they may appear – can be trusted in every situation to keep bits of sensitive information to themselves.

There can also be trying times when we look forward to some support, encouragement and cooperation from our peers and others. Unfortunately, We cannot always expect constant support from any such quarter.  We may need to be self-reliant and even to be prepared for when we may not be given the time of day by our own ‘team’.  Best mates and even spouses are not always willing to be patient or even sympathetic during times of stress, despair or tension when we need an arm or a shoulder to lean back on.

Ivory Towers & Perfection

Nowadays the so-called successful people around us don’t want average friends.  To even be considered, they must have money to spend, the ability to make good first impressions, a thick skin for thoughtless remarks, assertive abilities when needed and the ability to flatter other people very effectively. Oh yes, and they must make time for them no matter how busy they are.

Not to mention the ability to quickly perceive facts that can be exploited later, expert ability with high-tech smart phones, satnavs and the latest generation of video games, and seemingly unlimited stamina in everything they do – chatting, shopping, partying.  Whew!

Yes, we are always being judged.  What we have said, what we have done, what we haven’t said and what we forgot to do.  Oh, how dare we do that or not do that?  What’s the alternative?  If you know what you are doing or saying is right, who cares what anyone else thinks?

Get Ready To Roll

If you have any hang-ups or issues regarding people’s attitudes in general, there is only so much you can do to change the world.  Get over it and be yourself.

And remember – no matter how much we caution you or warn you, you will inevitably make lots and lots of mistakes that may not make a difference to anyone else but they will personally change you forever.  We all learn this way.

So stop moping and sulking about how the world treats you or how unfair life can be at times.  Straighten your shoulders, lift your head and get ready for a wild and rocky  roller coaster ride down life’s many slopes that will include scenes and encounters you could never imagine.

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