I have a friend, and, in this instance, that is the broadest definition of the word, who is infamous amongst those of us who know him for being the Just Kidding guy. You know the type. I am confident that all of you have at least one in your midst.
They are the ones that find an abundance of ways to disparage you but always do so with a smile and a postscript of, “Just kidding!” Even though he is a senior citizen, he still will punch you in the arm or try to put you in a headlock after he delivers one of his zingers.
As a young man, I frequently laughed along, even when I was the butt of the joke. I honestly believed that the people thus attacking me cared about me. At the time, I believed that people should be taken at face value, and that the things they said should be trusted as being sincere.
Age and experience has taught me that yes, the things that are spoken should be trusted, but not all of them. I was putting faith in the wrong words.
Just Kidding guy was quick to tell you he cared about you or was interested in your best interests. Time proved that the words he qualified with, “just kidding,” were the true ramblings of his heart. It was a hard, painful lesson to learn.
When I first met Just Kidding guy, I had recently moved and was many miles from my home and family. His family took me in, in a manner of speaking, and introduced me to people and included me in their social circle. On the outside, things looked very genuine. Indeed, for several years I enjoyed their company.
In time, other messages reached me of the things Just Kidding guy and his family would say when I was not around. Reality began to dawn on me that the things he said he was kidding about were how they viewed me. I was devastated. I am not one to cry. In fact, I probably can list the number of times I have cried as an adult in a matter of a few seconds. This truth, this lesson, made me bawl like a toddler for most of a night.
The lesson was a good one, though, and for that I do have to thank Just Kidding guy. It taught me to listen to what was really being said by people. As I paid closer attention, it became more evident that the people who said, “just kidding,” rarely were. That, in turn, taught me to choose to avoid those people in my daily life. There was some time where my social calendar did have quite a few openings, but the relationships I did develop have proved to be enduring, quality relationships.
I also learned to be vigilant with the words that escaped from my mouth. Internally, I ask myself, Am I sincere in what I am about to say? How will my audience interpret my words? Are they kind and upbuilding? Those questions taught me to keep my lips in check and not rattle off hurtful things, even under the guise of kidding.
It is more than twenty-five years since I first met Just Kidding guy. He and his wife still live a few miles from me. I rarely see them, and we run in very different circles. When he does chance upon my path, I always maintain how great it is to see him, but in my mind I cannot help but think, “Just kidding!”
Do you have a “Just Kidding” experience. Please share it below.
Until next time…