Not a bad guy

I hired my best friend’s cousin to landscape my house. He cashed my check before starting the job and did horrible work. I let him go and hired a new landscaper to fix and finish the job. My best friend has been like family to me for 20 years. Now, her entire family thinks I’m a horrible person. What should I do? I wanted my best friend to stay out of it, but her cousin told everyone. I thought he and I were going to keep it between us. He said he would refund my money, but he changed his mind. I plan to sue, but what can I do so that I don’t look like the bad guy? I’m not.

Your best friend’s cousin may not be a bad guy, either. He’s probably just an incompetent guy. Most incompetent people have no idea that they lack important skills, qualities or abilities, because their supervisors, clients, congregations or constituencies don’t tell them. It’s easier to pretend powerlessness by complaining about someone than it is to express integrity by helping that person to secure whatever support he or she needs in order to change. Sometimes, support requires you to terminate the person after you have consistently clarified his or her work-related problems and have seen little or no change, and after you have dealt honestly with your own codependency.

Yes, that’s right. It’s impossible to address this situation without confronting the part of you that contributed to creating it. So, consider your motivation. Did you think that hiring this guy would make you a part of the family? Did your friend say that her cousin needed work? Did you anticipate a “family” discount? Next, did you request a list of references and contact them? Did you follow the standard procedure of paying only a deposit on the job? Before the job started, did the two of you agree on how to handle disagreements?

You betrayed yourself by expecting a man you don’t trust to keep a distasteful situation secret. If the family members respond by calling you the bad guy, you can’t control their opinions. Just tell the truth about yourself (how you contributed to the problem) and him (substandard work). Finally, if your best friend believes that loyalty to family is paramount, let her process this issue without pressuring her to take sides. Tell her how important she is to you, but don’t let your fear of being abandoned keep you from being a responsible adult.

I am a ninth-grade student in Davis. I read the column about the vegetarians who were criticizing their meat-eating friend and learned how badly dairy cows are treated [”Not all secrets should be kept,” SN&R Ask Joey, September 2]. My family and I only drink organic milk, and I was wondering if dairy cows on organic farms are treated differently from other dairy cows.

Organic milk is better but not perfect, according to Monica Engebretson of the Animal Protection Institute. Animal-welfare issues such as confinement, mutilation, transportation and slaughter practices are not considered when meat or dairy products are certified organic. However, cows that produce organic dairy products are not injected with antibiotics and hormones and, as a result, suffer fewer udder infections. Cows on organic farms also have a daily recess in the pasture. (Non-organic-farm cows never see the outdoors.) Still, even organic dairy farms separate calves from their mothers soon after birth. Male calves are sold for veal production, and there is no guarantee of their fate once they leave the organic dairy farm. These calves also are castrated without anesthetics. Plus, organic dairy cows whose milk production drops are slaughtered in the same inhumane ways as dairy cows from non-organic farms. Read more at www.api4animals.org/1154.htm.

Meditation of the Week

The San Francisco Mime Troupe performed its new show, <i>Showdown at Crawford Gulch</i>, at Southside Park recently. The play, which pokes fun at the Bush administration’s war on terrorism, ends with a character announcing that the play’s Apache chief decided to move his tribe elsewhere because “if this is how Christians act in a crisis, he wants to get as far away from Jesus as possible.” How spiritual are you when facing stress?