What Do We Lose When We Choose Not to Care?
by: Mistral Salas
What do we lose when we choose not to care?
This question was posed in a recent episode of New York Times's “Modern Love” podcast. To deep dive into what they're asking, let's look at a scenario:
A girl likes a guy whom she is also friends with. At this point they’ve been friends a while, and she has grown think the relationship has potential for something more. He knows something is up and that she's probably interested in him. He isn’t sure if he wants to make the move from friends to more, but he's interested. They hang out one day and he tells her of a girl who gave him her number to see how she reacts. The girl, playing it cool as per usual, seems ecstatic. She asks questions and finally pushes him to pursue the other girl with her encouragement. Later, he wonders if she actually did have feelings for him or if it was all of his own making in his head. She could be faking excitement, but how is he to know?
This is the choosing not to care dilemma. And it's one that most of us can relate to. We have a fight or flight response to awkward situations that is mostly just flight. When we're too close to having our feelings revealed, too close to having our hearts show, we scramble to put up a false front. And we're great at the false front. So great that it could be cause for concern.
My question is: are we doing such a good job of covering our feelings that we convey the opposite of our true feelings to those around us?
You see this not caring façade everywhere. You see it in the guy who was broken up with and laughed in response, gawking to friends about how little it meant to him. He talks about girls all the time and makes jokes of past relationships gone awry, but maybe deep down he just wants a shot at a serious relationship. How can anyone be sure, though? Or the girl who is told a guy will call her. She secretly reveals this to her friends, and prepares her day accordingly—waiting for that phone call to a dinner date. He doesn’t call, though, and to spare embarrassment, she jokes about how she never really was interested in him in the first place. She remembers this, and next time she's asked on a date, she pretends to be uninterested in anything more than a fling. Or, when your best friend cancels on you to hang out with his/her significant other. You say it’s cool and then harbor ill feelings for much longer than it would have taken just to be upfront and say you were disappointed.
So to answer the title’s question, I think we lose a lot. We lose opportunities, lessons, chances, and just resting in the peace of knowing we are who we are, and allowing ourselves to feel how we feel.
I believe putting our guard up comes from a place of good intention. We hope to not be found out—to let it be known how much we care or how much we want to be liked in return. We want to spare hurt and spare humiliation, or at least a little embarrassment. However, when we do choose not to care, we know deep down it’s a lie. So we not only lie to others, we lie to ourselves. We bottle up feelings that one day might come back with a vengeance. This trend we have so embedded in our social identities has become a habit, and it could be causing much more hurt than the hurting you were protecting yourself from.