Recently I was walking with my long-time friend Marco in a public area along the ocean. We hadn’t seen each other in almost a year so we were in the middle of an engrossing conversation. I was in town briefly for a work commitment and we only had a few hours to hang out. After the ocean-side walk we planned to get some sushi.

As we walked around a small cove we could see a group of young adults on the edge of the rocks on the other side looking into the water. As we approached, one of us asked the guy closest to the edge what he was looking for. He replied, “a watch.” “What happened?” we inquired. The guy alluded to having accidentally let it slide off the rocks and he felt bad because it belonged to his good buddy sitting just behind where we were standing. I looked back and noticed that buddy didn’t look too happy, but at the same time he was just sitting there with a young woman and another dude drinking beer. It was a sunny late summer day and the water was clear. “It would probably be easy to dive down there and look for it,” I offered. “I’ve already been in there twice but I don’t have any goggles,” the dude replied, “I can’t see shit in there without goggles.”

“That’s a drag!” I told him. “I’ve got goggles back at my hotel and it’s a beautiful day for a swim.” Guy said, “Really? How far is your hotel?” Marco piped up quickly, “it’s about 10 kilometres away.” I looked at Marco and noticed that he suddenly seemed a little uncomfortable. He didn’t like me mentioning I owned goggles and that a swim would be nice? My hotel was definitely closer than 10 km.

The guy said, “Do you want to go back and get them?” I replied, “Not particularly, even though I would really enjoy a swim here.” “Are you sure?” he asked me, “How long would it take to go get them?” I told him, “We’ve got plans right now; I’m sure you could buy goggles easily yourself.”

Marco and I chatted with these people for a couple more minutes, listening to them talk about their predicament and offering them verbal sympathy. After we walked away Marco said sometimes he feels a bit angry at people like the guy when they try to drag you into their drama. This was interesting to hear because it wasn’t my experience that the guy had been trying to drag us into his drama. My experience was that I was enjoying the gorgeous landscape and my dear friend Marco, plus I was in a very friendly mood and I’m naturally curious. I thought I was the one who had inserted myself into the guy’s story, not the other way around.

Marco told me he had been on guard in case the guy tried to convince or coerce me into getting my goggles and diving for the watch. This was amusing to me because I couldn’t even imagine how a stranger with whom I had been having a friendly conversation would be able to overpower me. Unless he pulled a gun. Power is not something that others can easily take from you; almost every time you feel powerless in a situation it’s because you have given your power away.

This reminds me of something my dad used to say to me a lot when I was a kid: if you give someone an inch they will take a mile. But how is it possible for them to take a mile if you only give them an inch?

Ultimately, we are each responsible for how much we give. And we are responsible for any anger or resentment we may feel if we end up giving too much.

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