Before my run-in with a sociopath, my philosophy was pretty simple: Do what you’re supposed to do, and you’ll stay out of trouble.
It worked when I was younger. I studied hard in school, did my chores around the house and earned lots of Girl Scout merit badges. As a teenager and young adult, I never ran with a fast crowd. My cousin did, and I saw what happened to her.
She should have known better, I thought. Those kids were nothing but trouble. They were hanging out and smoking dope. What did she expect?
Fast forward 20 years. I’m a single professional with a profitable small business. My philosophy seemed to be working out—I’d never been in any serious trouble. Then the sociopath swept into my life.
James Montgomery certainly didn’t look like trouble. He didn’t smoke, drink or do drugs. He often wore a sport coat with a handkerchief in the pocket. He hung around with local business leaders. But in two and a half years, this man destroyed my life as I knew it.
Montgomery spent all my money, distracted me from my business, and left me in serious debt. I was no longer independent and self-sufficient. I was shaken to my core. Obviously, my simplistic philosophy had failed me.
Now, 10 years after I left Montgomery, I am more judgmental—and less judgmental.
I am more judgmental because I know, through hard experience, that trouble in life is not always easy to identify. Trouble can come in seemingly harmless, even promising, packages. I have learned that I cannot necessarily take people at face value; I must exercise discernment before believing or trusting anyone.
And I am less judgmental because I realize that people can get into trouble, even though they didn’t mean to. You never really know the circumstances that lead to the decisions people make. Maybe, given the same situation, my choices wouldn’t be any better.
It seems that, after the sociopath shattered my black-and-white view of the world, I’ve acquired some wisdom. For that, I am grateful.