I fall in to the same trap each time. When somebody who has wronged me becomes afflicted by contrition, I instantly forgive them. It is trendy to be positive, to act as I do, but this strange behaviour hasn’t gained me many Brownie Points* over the decades.
Those who I’ve forgiven have frequently taken it as a sign of weakness. Perhaps it is. Until I reached the age of fourteen, I was relentlessly bullied because I hated hitting another’s face or body and as boxing was a highly regarded sport at my Primary and Secondary schools, almost everyone took me as a weakling.
Bullies love weaklings and so even out of the boxing ring I was hounded. I saw it easier to let the first blow end the fight, which it didn’t, the bullies kept hitting me. In Fig Tree Court where fighting during our off-time was supervised by a teacher, aged fourteen, I faced the school’s worst bully for the umpteenth time. Potter was a psychopath, a big Afrikaner who nobody dared cross and we faced one another surrounded by the sort of jeering lads which fights attract. Everyone knew the outcome, Potter would walk triumphantly from my broken body.
Hearing a whisper, I cranked my head backwards. “You’re strong, I’ve seen that on the rugby pitch,” I spotted out of the corner of my eye a new lad who was South Africa’s champion boxer for his weight. “Listen man, you can win. You’re fast so keep jumping unpredictably from side to side, striking his nose every so often. No pattern. And just jabs. Be calm all the time. He’ll get livid, bullies hate being made a fool of. Let his anger build, when he’s completely bonkers hit him dead hard three times on the nose and you’ll have won.”
Enthused, because this amazing hero believed in me, I did as instructed and for the first time in his life Potter was beaten. Sorry for the guy, I helped him up in that silent ring. No bullies, not Potter, Bacceloni or Fischer, nor any of the nasty little crowd who had made my life miserable all of my school years, dared pick on me again. And you know what, I forgave them all if they were remorseful.
However, in real life where striking another can land you in jail, this trait of mine has mostly proven to be useless. Strangely enough, strong willed as I am, I am prone to psychological bullying if it is done with charm and a smile, for I have an inbuilt fault of taking people at face value and I’m not easily able to read their hidden agenda. This was instilled in me when I was young by the tribe I worshipped. They hated deceit - you had to be open, honest, honourable or you were not trusted. The Nandi were like this due to centuries of defending themselves against hostile tribes such as the Maasai.
And here in tame middle England, I failed to see through the smiles. In that utterly lovely English manner which has made film stars such as Hugh Grant and Colin Firth so loved, this person was all charm and decency as they said they hoped we weren’t annoyed. Suddenly, unable to read the smoke-screens, I forgave. What’s more curious, I wanted to hug them (a total no-no in polite English society).
I was too weak to face a psychological fight, (I’m really weak, even pleasant social interaction exhausts me). OK, a compromise. To forgive unconditionally often lets the Trumps of this world win, but that does not mean we have to be like them, there is a middle ground. It demands that we be strong, open, honest and above, all fair.
We live in an epoch where such skills are required, for to shift the status-quo and to slow Climate Change, we each must not shy from the fight. To gain such strength, we should build trust in our innate robustness. This requires settling in to yourself - calmly sinking beneath your emotion and conflicting thoughts. To daily reside in the calmness within. Tap here for an easy way to do this.
*(Brownies are female baby Scouts and good deeds gain them points)