“Has someone taken your faith? It’s real, the pain you feel…”
Best of You, Foo Fighters, 2005
As weeks go, this one has been a doozy.
Nothing catastrophic happened. No disasters befell me. In fact, life for me was pretty much status quo.
But there were some revelations in the last week. I’ve learned some things that have forced me to come to grips with some ugly truths. It’s taken a heavy emotional toll.
For each of us, there will come at least one time (and for some of us, many times), when we find out something about another person – someone we like or love, someone we trust, someone we admire – which completely shatters our faith in that person. And when that finally happens, it can be devastating.
Next week, I’ll celebrate 53 years on this planet. I wish I could say this past week was the first time I have experienced disappointment in another person, but it’s not. In 53 years, I’ve had a lot of people disappoint me, betray my trust, hurt my feelings, and in some cases, even cause me to lose a little of my faith in the decency of the human race.
You’d think after so many years, finding a rotten apple in the barrel wouldn’t stun me, as this week’s unpleasant surprises have done. But I was stunned. And, in retrospect, I think I know why.
First of all, this go-round wasn’t just a revelation about one person, but about three. Three revelations which diminished the character of people I used to think I knew. And that’s still not the worst of it.
The worst of it was that all three of these people had burned me before. They had behaved in such a way before that they had already revealed themselves as manipulative, even cruel people. But I forgave them all. And then this week, I learned they were truly undeserving of my forgiveness.
There was a time when I was willing to forgive and forget. Then, as I got older, and experienced more hurt, I could still forgive, but I knew better than to forget. That habit of remembering has served me well. It’s allowed me to guard my psyche from people who worry only for themselves. Like these three. For them, there will be no more forgiving, and absolutely no forgetting.
Does this make me a lesser person? Maybe. It may indicate that I no longer have the character it takes to forgive easily. Perhaps a bigger, more gracious soul would. But forgiving shouldn’t mean leaving yourself vulnerable. So perhaps I’m just getting smarter. After all, you can only tolerate so much before you finally decide that enough is enough. I’m getting a little too old to allow anyone to bully me.
Author/poet Maya Angelou put it best when she said: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
It’s true. Words can heal, and praise, and comfort. But they can also cut like a razor. And when your words carry venom and hate, the person you direct them at may not remember them verbatim, but he will always remember what he felt in his gut when you said them.
In a professional situation, involving the first of these three individuals, I was bullied, and made to feel shame. This person had always been so quick to offer praise, telling me how much he respected my work, what a great job I did, how dependable I was, and the like. So the day he turned on me, I was caught completely off guard. He let loose a verbal assault the likes of which I had never experienced from anyone at any time. It may as well have been a physical beating.
And he did it in front of a room full of people. Over a trivial matter which I had absolutely handled properly, as I later proved to him. I will never forget that day, or how small, how worthless I felt. I was crushed.
He got the best of me.
Eventually he apologized, and I forgave him. But what I didn’t know until just a few days ago was that he quietly went up the ladder and attempted to smear my character and my integrity, telling people that I was not capable of handling responsibility, and, therefore, not suitable for any upcoming promotions. This, despite years of positive performance reviews, awards and recognitions. If I were Catholic (which I’m not, but I married one so I’ve picked up some of the lingo over the years), I’d call this a sin of commission on his part.
The second individual was also involved in this whole sordid scenario, but for that person, it was a sin of omission. This person sat by, knowing absolutely that lies were being told to discredit me, to sully my name and my character, and did nothing to stop it. This was someone I once admired, respected, and even considered a friend. With friends like that…
There’s no recourse here for me. I learned this latest truth from someone I trust, but there’s no evidence to offer up in my defense. It hurts. And it disappoints me, but it certainly isn’t much of a surprise. Fool me once, shame on me. Fool me twice? Well, sorry. You’re as good as dead to me. I’m not as profound as Dr. Angelou, but here’s some homespun wisdom: Don’t fuck with a Jewish Mother. There’s no coming back from it.
The last individual? Well, that’s a family matter, and one I can’t divulge here. Suffice it to say that this person didn’t come after me directly, but went after one of my kids. I guess you might say it’s an ongoing case of emotional blackmail and manipulation. It began a long time ago, and this week’s dust-up was the last straw, for both of us. My child is now old enough to fight this battle without my help, but I will provide whatever emotional support is needed.
Here’s some more wisdom: Don’t fuck with a Jewish Mother’s kids. Also a road you don’t want to travel.
So, after a long week of stewing and pondering and feeling a respectable amount of anger at my transgressors, I’ve decided to look at these latest revelations as a sign. A message from the universe. And trust me when I say, this is huge for me. I’m not sure I could have heard such a message twenty years ago, probably not even five years ago.
It’s the Foo Fighter zen. I’m sure of it!
This is what I know: Despite the anger and the disappointment I feel now, I’m letting all of that go. I know that these things are trivial in the grand scheme. There is something bigger and better down the road for me. Where I am, and what I’ve had to deal with lately? None of it will matter in the long run. Something important is coming up. The seeds of destiny have been planted. And I’ve tended them carefully.
When they bloom, I’ll be ready.