"It's not spiders I dislike, just people." -Petra
Question #91499 posted on 07/17/2018 10:06 p.m.

Dear good people of the Board,

I graduated from BYU a couple years ago and am now well started on my career. I recently had a falling-out with several individuals, related to a couple of serious ethical dilemmas that came up; they used to work at the company I currently do work for. However, we are all still working in the same field, there's quite a few mutual connections between us (plus, they are older and more established), and so it is quite possible that some of us will encounter each other at meetups, events, and other activities. Knowing this possibility exists has exacerbated my previous anxiety/depression into something that feels like constant dread/fear of the future.

I've experienced some social conflicts when I was at BYU, but college is only a few years, and careers can last decades... Plus if this had happened at BYU, we would either politely ignore each other, or (eventually) civilly forgive, but I'm really not so sure if that would happen here.

I was put into situations where I wanted to remain neutral, but ultimately had to make certain choices based on my beliefs and what facts I had available to me, and what really sucks is that burning bridges was inevitable no matter which choices I made (which is, of course, a huge no-no you're constantly warned about in college). I'm now suffering huge anxiety about it because I want to avoid any further confrontation from the burned-bridges people in question (or anyone else who doesn't know me very well and has undoubtedly passed judgement on me).

I know that in a few years this will most likely just be a memory which makes me a stronger person, but right now it's causing a lot of anxiety and depression that makes me want to stay inside my house, avoid all social media and career-building activities, and for a while I was even considering drastically changing jobs because of how afraid I am of possible confrontation, or dealing with people who might say unkind things that hurt my future friendships and business opportunities.

Do you have any similar experiences with anxiety/fear of other people controlling you? Do you have any spiritual advice? Every time I remember reading about people's work problems in the Ensign magazine it was always really straightforward issues like "say no to alcohol" (which seems to me like more of an issue that older generations had to deal with compared to mine).

-my name here


Dear you,

I can't say that I've ever been in your situation, but I have had experiences where relationships with other people didn't so much crumble as violently explode, and even with years of reflection, I can't see any way to have avoided it.

The hard thing about dealing with people is you have no control over them. This lack of control over people naturally gives rise to lack of control over situations. People always say to do your best, but don't include the reality that even after your best, things can still suck. Sometimes there is no path we can choose that will have a positive outcome. And we just have to live with that.

But this doesn't sound like a situation where it was so much a strict question of you doing your best as it was of you doing your best to do what's right. In the Church it's often repeated that people who follow the Spirit will be granted ineffable peace and happiness, but I don't actually believe that. Perhaps wickedness never was happiness, but that doesn't mean righteousness is. In fact, I believe that doing what's right can result in us being downright miserable, and having a worse quality of life than if we'd simply allowed ourselves to bend. But if there weren't people willing to sacrifice their own happiness for what's right, the world would be a sadder place. Take Martin Luther King Jr. He probably could have lived a significantly less stressful, more comfortable, happier (certainly longer) life if he hadn't become a social activist. Needless to say the US would be much worse if Dr. King had chosen this route.

What I'm trying to get at here is that there are things worth sacrificing everything for, including our own happiness. I believe that 'rightness' is one of those things.

I'm sorry that you're now experiencing anxiety and depression directly because you did the right thing. However, only you can say whether or not this price is too steep, and whether you'd make the same choice again.

I don't know if your career future will be permanently blighted. My intuition is that it's not. Regardless, you can't change the past now, and should act in accordance with what will maximize your opportunities in the present, even if it opens you up to further contact with those individuals (though I'm not saying that's necessarily the optimal path for you). 

In closing, I'd like to advise talking to a therapist, as they will be able to help alleviate your depression and anxiety far better than any answer I can write will.

Good luck, my friend.