Sunday, March 10, 2013

Holding my Tongue

I was angry today. So angry in fact that I was trying to remember the last time I was this angry. I think it was 6 or 7 years ago.

Anyway, the instigator of my ire was someone we've met before. Remember the lady who regularly dusts her pipes from a few posts ago? Well she did something that, in my opinion was extremely disrespectful, mean, and uncalled for, all so that she could be sure to have her way. It's way too complicated to explain - suffice it to say I was offended, upset, and above all, hot lava steaming mad. 

(To be honest, I have no idea why I had such a strong reaction to this particular thing. On a different day it's very possible that I simply would have let it roll off of my proverbial back. But for whatever reason, today was not that day.) What she did was done by email, and as the world would have it, I actually had to come in contact with her later on in the day. There was no way around it and I had a plan.

I thought of the most nasty, insulting, hurtful thing I could say to her. I thought about it in the shower, I thought about it while I was walking the dog, I thought about it off and on all day. And while I do not consider myself to be a mean person, saying these awful things to this person was going to bring me untold satisfaction and vindication, which I felt I richly deserved.

Just before leaving, while putting some things away, I came across a little tiny book that I was planning to give my mother as a gift. I had never actually looked inside it, so I opened it up to a random page. Here is what it said:

 For every evil under the sun, 
There is a remedy, or there is none. 
If there be one, try to find it, 
If there be none, never mind it. 

Wow. I had never heard that before and it really resonated with me at that moment. I sat down and read it again, and again, and one more time after that. The words sank into me slowly and I realized, there is no remedy. Not in this instance anyway. This is an awful person, who does ridiculous things for her own self-interests, and my job is to "never mind it." I don't need to spend one more moment of my life thinking about it, or worrying about it, or planning my revenge. There is simply no remedy to this situation so it has no place in my heart or bones or brain.

I closed the book, and the anger that had been boiling inside me for some time now melted into a sea of calmness. I wasn't mad anymore. What she did was still wrong, but I could make the choice to not let it get to me. Now there's some power that I could exert! Much more powerful than what my tongue could have said in an instant, and that, once out there, could never be taken back.

Now, I'm sure you're on the edge of your seat, wondering what happened when I finally saw this woman (who, by the way, has earned the nickname "The Troll" in our house). Well, as enlightened as I was feeling, I still didn't trust myself 100% to not let something just a little bit noxious come out so I had someone else at the place drop off the thing I needed to give to her. And honestly, I still wasn't satisfied. I was glad that I had taken the high road, but a part of me still wanted her to know that she had been incredibly out of line and disrespectful to me.

And then,  a line from my childhood came back to me:

"What is hateful to you, do not do to any person." Spoken by Hillel, as the fundamental foundation on which human beings should build their lives. I have had people say mean and hurtful things to me and they made me feel terrible. What kind of person would I be if I consciously did something to someone else (deservedly or not) that was calculated to hurt them as much as possible? Answer: Not the kind of person that I want to be, nor the kind of example that I want to set for my children. So I said absolutely nothing. I successfully managed to avoid seeing her, which helped, but I have to believe that had our paths crossed this evening I would have held my tongue and not spewed more anger and hatred and vitriol into the world.

Was this difficult? Sure. Was it the right thing to do? You bet. Will I sleep well tonight? Undoubtedly.

But she won't. She'll be lying awake worrying about the dust accumulating on her pipes. She has enough anguish in her life as it is, she doesn't need any more from me.

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