One of the more puzzling features of our lives is that we have a phenomenon known as company manners by which those who know us only a little bit see the best of us, and those who know us well see the worst of us . Given that all of us, to some extent, have certain unpleasant modes of behavior or habits that we feel it politic to restrain in the course of our regular lives, that we wish to relax and let go of in the privacy of our own home, this makes our relationship with those closest to us more problematic in that they see the sides of us that most other people do not, except when they do not see those sides at all because they are too self-absorbed in what is behind their own masks that they show to the world. It would be nice to say that this was an issue that only some people had but it appears to be a pretty universal tendency. Those who are closest to us see the worst of us, the parts of us that we would not wish to be generally known, and the results of that disparity between what strangers see and what loved ones see is often a tragic and yawning gap.
How are we to deal with the gap between the is and the ought? Even in the merely philosophical sense, this question generates a lot of heat because its application is so universally relevant. Some people attempt to deny by one means or another that there is a gap at all. We do this either by painting an unrealistic view of reality that corresponds to our ideals or by disparaging ideals so as not to create any sort of discontent or dissatisfaction with the state of affairs that we find so problematic. To admit that there is a gap between the way things are and the way things want to be is to increase our already fevered dissatisfaction with our world and to increase our tendency to want to lower that unhappy feeling by pointing to someone to blame for this state of affairs. Even to acknowledge what is an obvious aspect of reality is to tempt us to seek to resolve our own feelings of dissatisfaction in ourselves by pointing to those in our lives who either make that gap plain or whose own behavior towards us was markedly less than the ideal. The blame game is one that everyone can and does play all too often, as is the denial game .
I know, speaking from my own painful experience, that more than most people I have a great deal of problematic relationships with other people. My interactions, or lack of interactions, with others demonstrate that I do not always do a good job of living up to my ideals. Despite the fact that I would like to find happiness in love, I do not find myself to be an easy person for others to love, largely because of the prickly tendencies of my nature that I use for self defense. Likewise, the fact that silence and ferocious argument are such a frequent aspect of my life suggests that there are long-term difficulties in communicating which I struggle with more or less consistently in all areas of life. If there are some people I can get along with that others find more difficult to deal with, there are also all too many people that I simply do not relate to well and with whom my interactions are filled with a great deal of stress and unpleasantness. Unfortunately, being a person whose mental life can be a bit too transparent, these problematic personal interactions become the food for nightmares that rob me of the sleep that would make life at least a bit more relaxed and pleasant, and so the cycle feeds in on itself, by which problematic personal interactions exacerbated by my own high levels of stress and anxiety and exhaustion turn into nightmares that feed the underlying problematic state of affairs.
We can either use these problematic interactions and problematic people in our lives either as enemies or as mirrors into the darkness of our own souls. It is easy for us to hate and hold in contempt those with whom we struggle to get along. Yet if we follow this easy tendency we lose out on a great opportunity to better understand ourselves and to improve our own character. We do not have problems with other people because we are dealing with the worst people ever, people who are devoid of good qualities or who are unworthy of our respect and at least some of our time and attention, but rather because and them are both imperfect but in ways that rub the other in the wrong way. We can justify ourselves or blame others to attempt to shift the blame for those problematic interactions, but we can also, if we choose, see our problematic interactions as mirrors into ourselves, to see our own impatience and self-centeredness and laziness and so on that add to our problems in the world. Being perfect would not free us from having troublesome interactions with others–witness the difficulties Jesus Christ had with others–but it would free us to be able to look at situations with a sense of justice that was born out of being aligned with what is right and good. We cannot be just with others until we see ourselves clearly, and much of the time we do not want to do that. After all, we would not wear masks in the first place unless we had something to hide. The mere existence of our masks is an indication of the problematic state of affairs that we wrestle with over the course of our lives so fiercely.
 See, for example:
 See, for example: