People are Complex

"Ashley" and I worked together at my first post-college job. The office consisted of a bunch of 20-somethings operating a phone bank at a drug information clearinghouse for the federal government. Ashley was a vegetarian. She refused make-up and wore no leather. She advocated for women's and animals’ rights.

I had her pegged.

Then one day Ashley and I worked the day’s first shift and I saw her scarf down breakfast – a breakfast that consisted of exactly one thing: a Diet Coke.

“Really?” I said. “You reject meat, you eat fruits and vegetables for lunch, and the only thing you’re putting into your body first thing in the morning is a can of chemicals?”

And then she said something that stuck with me – obviously – for decades.

“Well, Karen, it just goes to show you people are complex.”


We like to size up people. It’s easier to think of them as all good or all bad. Robust. Weak. Lavish. Stingy.

It’s especially tempting, in our memory, to recall black and white images, when in reality, grey is the shade of truth. Take the care, when you write your life story, to truly consider the wholeness of the people you discuss. Do yourself – and the people in your life – justice and kindness.

Remember them for their complexity.