It happened a long time ago when I was living in another city.
I had never interacted with anyone like this woman before, someone so lovely and intelligent and charming that most of us who came in contact with her immediately loved her. But at the same time, there were other people who came to an entirely different conclusion. She was a liar. Manipulative. Pitting people against each other. Actively working in her own self-interest.
But I didn't believe any of that. I was one of the woman's biggest cheerleaders,
until one day, she threw me under the bus. She made up a story about me and informed our boss, who reprimanded me. I was stunned, but able to defend myself (the story wasn't true and not really hard, ultimately, to prove) and the woman was able to wriggle out of getting into trouble herself, telling the guy she'd made a mistake and then turned on someone else, and everyone moved on
but I couldn't.
I was consumed with outrage, suddenly able to see the woman for who she was, as if a veil had been lifted and every rumor I'd heard was so glaringly and obviously true. And yet, there were still so many other people who loved her and sang her praises.
When I tried to tell them what she'd done to me, I could see the skeptical look in their eyes, their discomfort at hearing my story, which even to me, sounded sort of shrill and defensive.
I kept pushing though-- I was RIGHT and she was WRONG and all of this was unfair and she shouldn't be allowed to wreak all of this havoc and then
she got me again.
I can't even remember the details now, but at the time, this new fresh outrage sent me over the edge. I ranted and raved to another coworker, pleading my case, wanting her to SEE what this woman had done, readying myself to prepare, anew, for battle-- I'd go to other coworkers, the boss-- and then pausing, finally, to hear my coworker's advice.
It was not what I expected.
She believed me. She'd had her own crazy encounters with the woman. But she didn't think I should do anything at all. And as I sputtered out Whys and Buts and NO! she nodded and calmly said,
You're never going to beat her because she doesn't follow the rules. If you keep fighting, she's going to drag you down to her level. This is a game to her, but you don't have to play.
Long story short, I took the advice. It helped that we moved out of state shortly after, but in the meantime, there was a surprising freedom and peace in stepping out of the fray. (And oh yes, there was fray. Even now, a decade later, I will occasionally get a tearful, outraged call from a stranger, someone who is locked in their own battle with this woman and who wants to share their story.)
but that we have a choice in how we react.
When you find yourself on the path with a person like this tearing toward you, please believe me when I tell you,
it is okay to step aside.