In The Forest Scout’s “Human Advocate” column, our staff writers seek to analyze and interpret deep questions that arise during the transformative years of their life. Many of these young writers are deeply entrenched in the curriculum of Humanities, a senior English elective at Lake Forest High School.
I tend to look at my life as a long strand of cause and effect. I think that it’s a comforting way to view things, especially when looking for an explanation. My favorite motto is “it’s either a blessing or a lesson.” I enjoy the sentiment of that phrase because it truly applies to everything and gives me a sense of comfort and reason when I can’t understand why something is happening in my life. A huge area of my life that this motto has applied to is my relationships with other people. I don’t just mean this in terms of romantic relationships, I mean every type of relationship: friendships, family, even strangers. Sometimes it’s hard to admit, but the people that we surround ourselves with have a resounding impact on us, be it positive or negative.
Think about every single interaction you’ve had today. Subconsciously it has had an effect on you. When that girl in the hallway that you didn’t know very well said “hi” to you, did that not make you happy? Or when your mom woke up early and made you breakfast just because she felt like doing something nice, wasn’t that a nice start to your day? Those two little happenstances triggered feelings of happiness and probably made your day that much better. From simple acts of kindness to the more meaningful things–like a friend being mean or rude to you for no reason or having one of those really down-to-Earth conversation with someone–all of these little interactions change you in some way and shape you into who you are right at this moment.
I would actually go as far as to say that the people we spend the most time around rub off on us drastically. The easiest example of this to relate to immediately is our parents. Have your friends ever told you that you and your mom or dad are alike? Or has one of your parents’ lifelong friends told you that you remind them of your parents because of the way you act or the things you say? Without even trying, we naturally pick up characteristics and personality traits that our parents have because we’ve spent our whole lives around them and looking up to them. You can even pick up traits that you may not necessarily like just from spending a lot of time with someone. For example, if the friend that you spend a lot of time with has a negative outlook on life, school, homework, or even attendance and you don’t make a conscious avoid that behavior, then you’ll most likely end up reinforcing it in your own life.
Just like how going through a traumatic event can have negative side effects, a negative or bad relationship in your life can also have negative side effects as well. When someone treats you poorly–even if you don’t want it to–it subconsciously sticks with you forever. Unfortunately, this situation occurs when you treat someone poorly as well. After experiencing a negative relationship, we change in all sorts of little ways in hopes that we won’t have to go through the same events again.
The fact that we are easily affected by the people around us isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Rather, I think that is a way for us to constantly challenge ourselves to be conscious of the energy we are putting out and the way we are acting. Due to the chaos of everyday life, It is easy to lose control of our actions and to stop thinking before acting. Still, however, by being aware of how the people around you act, you can learn to take the good from people and learn from the bad.
Thus, you can let your relationships be a blessing or a lesson. Assess the relationships you have with those around you–adults included–to determine whether you’re being a giver, a taker, or if the benefits are mutual. Instead of letting your relationships control you, turning you into someone you don’t want to become, learn to develop positive, lasting relationships that can help ascend your character, morals, and ethics to a new standard.