It’s a special thing to have written a book that touches people’s lives. When a friend wanted to read Grief: The Great Yearning, I thought it would be uncomfortable for both of us afterward — it is such a personal book, where I turn myself inside out to show the truth of me and my grief, that I wasn’t sure a fledgling friendship could hold up under those powerful revelations, but my fears were unwarranted. She was able to see herself in many of the situations, and was able to understand some of what she has been feeling but was never able to put into words. And she thinks I’m not only a wonderful writer but an incredible person.
Oddly, as much as I appreciate her esteem, (and as much as I wanted to say eagerly, “tell me more!”) I don’t feel as if her opinion of me has anything to do with me.
Once a long time ago, I saw a plaque, “What others think of you is none of your business.” I thought it a silly saying because of course, what others think of you is your business. What a child thinks of his parents is often a key to his emotional health, so what the child thinks of his parents is definitely the parents’ business. If you are in a romantic relationship, a marriage, or some other long-term coupling, what your loved one thinks of you is your business. If you think yours is a love match and the other only lusts after you or your money, you need to know that so you can make informed decisions about your future. If someone hates you enough to want to harm you, then definitely that is your business.
I often think of that saying now when I get a compliment or a rare insult. If one person thinks I have a wonderful outlook on life and another thinks I am being negative . . . well, the truth probably lies somewhere in between. So neither opinion is truly my business. It is their business what they think of me, just as it is my business what I think of them. It’s not that I think hurtful things, but so often, the things I like or enjoy about someone are the very things they hate about themselves and they would be appalled I noticed their charming (and not so charming) peccadilloes.
We can’t live our lives trying to figure out what others think of us and then work our life around their opinions. We have to consider what we think of us and live life accordingly. Conversely, we often feel the need to tell others what we think of them — simply to help them, of course — but if what we think of them is none of their business, we might as well keep our opinions to ourselves. (And perhaps save a friendship in the process.)
Still, it is nice to get a compliment, and it is especially nice when the compliment concerns such a special book as Grief: The Great Yearning.
Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.