While no one watches The Bachelor to gain insight and wisdom, on occasion it provides a window into the human condition and gives a stark example of how one should not act. I have been known to watch the show from time to time, typically to gawk at discovering exactly what lengths people will go to to get on national television for their 15 minutes of fame. But there are real lessons to be learned from the show, beyond sharpening one’s sense of sarcasm and increasing one’s general level of snarkiness.
By nature, I am a nice guy. I want people to like me, I want people to be happy and most importantly, I don’t want to be the direct cause of someone’s pain. This is not an uncommon way of going through life. The problem with being nice, however, is that it can also be a convenient cover for activities that are actually quite self-serving.
This season’s Bachelor, Sean, is many things. He is outdoorsy, he likes to show off his abs and he is a nice guy. There have been a number of things he has done this season that have been out of the ordinary because he is trying to be a nice guy and this was one of those weeks. But sometimes looks can be deceiving.
For people who don’t watch, this week The Bachelor decided the was one of the woman who was not right for him. She had fallen into the Friend Zone and she was not going to make it past this week. However, instead of waiting until the Rose Ceremony at the end of the episode to cut her loose, Sean decided that he needed to break up with her without going any further. He used sympathetic phrases to validate why he was taking this course of action, such as “It wouldn’t be fair to her” to keep her any longer.
At first glance, this sentiment seems right. Why lead the girl on if you already know that it is not going to work out? Be open and honest with her and tell her right away instead of dragging it out. Isn’t this so refreshing and uplifting for such a typical dumpster fire of a show!? Actually, not right. Not right at all.
Because instead of breaking up her in the usual way on the show, he decided to go ahead an make an even bigger spectacle of the whole thing by showing up in front of the women unannounced, singling her out in front of all of them and then breaking up with her. To top it all off, since she didn’t know it that she was going home two days early, she had to do the walk of shame past all of the women and then pack up all of her stuff. All in the name of treating her fairly!
What would have been so unfair about the other option? If she sticks around for two more days, she gets to spend time at a beautiful resort in northern Canada on someone else’s dime. There are no dates or activities scheduled for her where you would have to “fake it” or “lead her on” outside of maybe a 10 minute conversation prior to the Rose Ceremony where she would be left without a rose like a typical rejected candidate. Someone needs to explain this to me because I am still missing the “unfair” part! (You want to talk about doing right by someone, how about don’t let the woman whose personal and cultural values strongly discouraged her from kissing a man in a public fashion finally kiss you only to dump her THAT EVENING!)
Sean fell in to the trap that many people fall into, which is mistaking your own feelings of guilt and remorse for the feelings of others. Too often we do something under the guise of “doing the right thing by the other person”, only it is really our own attempt to make ourselves feel better. Worst of all this typically comes at the cost of making the other person feel infinitely worse. It is actually one of the more selfish things a person can do.
So the next time you are wracked with guilt for something you have done or something you feel and you want to bear your soul to that person and try to make it right, ask yourself one simple question, “Why am I doing this?” If the only answer that you can come up with is because “I feel guilty”, that is not enough of a justification to do it. It is true that honesty is the best policy, but that policy should actually go both ways. Be honest with yourself as much as with the other person and then you will finally be doing things right.