Hi. Let me start by saying that this letter is from one user to another user because at the end of the day, we’re all users. I’m not sure it’s fair to say that it’s natural to use people. I know it’s not fair to write to you as if I’m somehow better than you. I use people on the regular. It’s not that I go out of my way to do so, but it happens. In fact, I might be using you by writing you right now.
But let’s not allow that to get in the way.
Maybe we spend too much time focusing on “using people” when we should be more concerned with “using people up.” Dig what I mean here. If you use your friendship with a co-worker to secure a promotion, is that such a bad thing, really? Your friend/co-worker is likely happy to help, especially if it doesn’t cost him or her anything to help you. But what about faking a friendship with a co-worker with the endgame of securing that promotion? That area gets grayer, muddier, right?
Still, though, have you “used that person up” if you fake a friendship? Probably not.
There is damage that can be done, though. You’ve got to take a moment to at least consider the damage. It’s not easy, and I forget to do it myself sometimes. It’s important, though. What if the co-worker you’re using with your fake friendship thinks he or she is investing in a genuine friendship? When the promotion is secured, do you intend to drop that person as quickly as you picked them up? I’ve done this. I’ve dropped people once I got what I wanted, and to be honest, I know I’ve done damage. There’s been disappointment and hurt and pain. There’s been guilt.
You need to worry about these one-time incidents because they can become the type of using that leads to “using people up.” I’m talking about how we take and take and take and take until all of the good inside a person has been sucked away. And all the good inside a person can be sucked away, especially if no one is consistently contributing good to that person’s life. Do you want to be this type of person—a good sucker, a habitual user, a vampire of sorts?
If you do, you can stop reading now. I’m not judging you if that’s what you truly want, but I just don’t want to waste anymore of your time.
I’m writing because I know good—the kind of good other users want—exists inside of you, too, I don’t think you want to suck—I don’t think that’s what you truly want. No one wants that on their résumé. User level: vampire. And I’m writing as a fellow user who tries to remind herself that too much of any one thing is a bad thing…for someone, somewhere. I don’t want to use anyone up. I don’t want to take and take and take until there’s nothing left.
I guess I just want you to take the time to consider the way you interact with others. Can you do that for me? When you’re taking (or being willingly given) part of someone’s good for your own gain, are you doing a cost analysis? Sometimes, it might be best if we just step back, especially if the person has already given so much. I want us to question ourselves when we’re using. I’m not saying I don’t want us to use—I don’t see this as a viable option—but I want us to think about our using in an intentional way. For instance, do we have to wield friendships as tools in our user arsenal? Can we just try to put that one in the “off-limits” category? I want us to try to cultivate friendships because we desire friendships—not as an endgame.
I want us to be aware of others. I want us to see that someone is being overly used, and better, I want us to be willing to step back and say, “No, not this time. That person’s had enough for now.” I want us to use people who have plenty of good left to pass around, and let the people who need to recharge…well, recharge. I want us to pick our battles, for lack of a better phrase, and not use for every single moment in our lives.
I’m saying us because it’s not just you. It’s not just you.
So, given everything I’ve said, am I asking too much, friend? I’m not asking you to quit using. I don’t want to be a hypocrite if I can help it. I’m asking you to make sure you’re not “using people up.” How would a broken down world of used up people serve you, anyway? I don’t think it would serve you at all. I know it won’t serve me at all. From one user to another, I’m just asking for a little intentionality. Just a little more thought. With all of that “Yes, I’ll use this person,” I just want you to sprinkle in a couple of well-placed “No’s”. Can you do that for me?
I’m going to try to do it, too.