Dialogue from Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown
Louis Gara (Robert DeNiro): You trust Melonie around your business?
Ordell Robbie (Samuel L. Jackson): She’s trying to play you against me, huh?
Ordell: See, I knew it. You ain’t have to say nothing, I know that [woman].
Louis: I don’t understand why you keep someone around your business and you can’t even trust them.
Ordell: I ain’t gotta trust her. I know her.
Louis: I don’t know what that means, man.
Ordell: Well. You can’t trust Melonie. But you can always trust Melonie to be Melonie.
We cannot expect or demand another person to be any different than what and how we “know” them to be. Once we have an idea of someone else’s nature, or core personality, which we can get through honest observation of behavior, we know what he or she is likely to do. Who we know a person to be is not always who we might wish a person to be, and the trick is not to allow love blindness to cloud our vision.
This makes life simple, but it requires a high degree of personal integrity and accountability. It limits our ability to play victim because someone did something that he or she said she wouldn’t do or that he or she agreed not to do. The practice of accepting people for who and where they are also increases the need for us to deal with reality, with what is rather than what we want it to be.
In the example above, Ordell wasn’t surprised. He didn’t attempt to pretend that Melonie could do or be something different than what he knew her to be capable of doing and being. And so, while he knew he could not trust her with his business, his secure knowledge of her enabled him to take her actions in stride. She acted in a way that was consistent with his view of her character, exactly as he knew she would.
The foundation of what I am talking about is really personal responsibility, not expectations. Expect nothing more from people than what you “know” them to be capable of doing as you have observed.
My friend “H” challenged this idea with a scenario of abuse:
Say you are in a relationship with someone you know to be abusive, do you simply expect and accept abuse for the slightest thing, such as leaving the toothpaste uncapped?
This is great example. The issue is not the toothpaste, it is the history, and what the person being hit “knows” of the person hitting. If you asked the victim whether the abuser would have reacted violently to leaving the cap off the toothpaste a day before it happened, and the answer is “yes,” then the victim has and had a duty to him or herself to make some adjustment. Whether the victim realizes it or not, he or she has the power to do what it takes to make that adjustment and cease being victimized, if they have a sincere interest in doing so. A solution may simply be to leave the relationship.
Do not mistake what I am saying about personal responsibility as justification for abuse, lying, cheating, conniving or other harmful actions. Was Melonie wrong for plotting to steal Ordell’s money in Jackie Brown? A case can certainly be made that she was. But Ordell avoided the victim role altogether when he accepted her as he knew her to be, and he was honest enough with himself to realize that in spite of her flaws, he preferred to have her in his life anyway.
The bottom line is: Be honest enough with yourself to determine whether a person is worth having in your life, in spite of what you already know about them. Accept the future that you are aware of, in your heart, as though it were the past. From that perspective, you can determine whether or not you desire any other person to stay in your space. If the answer is “no,” you have the power to adjust the spacing today.