Dear Dr. Norquist:
I just read your column this week. I just happen to have a very similar problem but the person is still alive, and her family is a very important family in town with a very important business. After my husband died, we became friends. I would hate to cause problems for them but I cannot let her get away with accusing me of doing something I never did, and spreading all sorts of lies about me. I know people who know me will not believe her as she has done this many times with other people including her family members. I was warned about this but I wanted to help her.
My son and myself helped her when none of her family would. She told me stories about them which I have never repeated. I do not believe in gossip at any cost. I never have and never will.
I feel she should not get away with this. I have written a letter to send out to people in town just to clear the air.
I am proud of who I am today. I am strong and I will not let anyone lie about me, malign my husband’s name or the family name we are proud of.
I am a mother, grandmother and soon to be a great grandmother. I can not stand back and allow the defamation of my character or actions that will malign our family name. Please tell me what the best solution to this unforgiveable act is. Thank you in advance for any help you can give me.
Dr. Norquist responds:
It sounds like you befriended and helped a woman in town. Later she turned on you, told lies about you to others, and accused you of something you didn’t do. You were warned ahead of time about this woman, but you decided to befriend her anyway. You have written a letter to send to people in town to clear the air and defend yourself and your family.
Only you know the particulars of this situation, and the response that is right for you. We all have an instinct to defend ourselves when we feel unjustly attacked. You have a responsibility to yourself to not allow yourself to be used or maligned. In deciding what action you want to take, it is important to be clear with yourself regarding your motivation and your values. Remember that negativity begets more negativity.
There is a lesson here for you. You chose to become involved with this woman despite the warnings you received from others. Why did you choose to overlook the warnings? Choosing to not engage with people who will bring you down is an important life skill. This is the lesson of keeping good company. There are those whose presence is affirming and uplifting, and there are those whose presence brings us down. If you choose to surround yourself with people who are uplifting, you improve the quality of your life immensely. The choice is always yours to make.
I hope this is helpful to you in deciding how to respond to your current dilemma.
(Dr. Sallie Norquist is a licensed psychologist (NJ #2371) in private practice and is director of Chaitanya Counseling Services, a center for upliftment and enlivenment, in Hoboken.)Dr. Norquist and the staff of Chaitanya invite you to write them at Chaitanya Counseling Services, 51 Newark St., Suite 202, Hoboken, NJ 07030 or www.chaitanya.com or by e-mail at email@example.com, or by fax at (201) 656-4700. Questions can address various topics, including relationships, life’s stresses, difficulties, mysteries and dilemmas, as well as questions related to managing stress or alternative ways of understanding health-related concerns. 2011 Chaitanya Counseling Services