Once, I noticed a toy in the corner of a sandbox half buried. After I dug it out, no one was much impressed. Rust tarnished its features. After much effort and elbow grease, it looked new. Kids noticed its bells and whistles; their interest grew. The response pleased me since this toy required many hands on the controls. One girl seemed most interested, so I asked her to assist. Without a word, she climbed into the driver’s seat and locked the doors. As levers and flaps started to move, heads turned. She drew interest and needed help but preferred flying solo. Several times I waved to get her attention, but she was busy turning dials. The moving parts were more than she could handle.
After a few fruitless days in the schoolyard, I knocked on the the window and motioned her to come down. She sensed my frustration. Our exchange began calmly enough, but soon all my supposed expertise poured out. Understandably, she got her feelings hurt.
Later a message came to me through other people the girl was upset. I decided to do something radical for a my age: apologize in person. Of course I didn’t want to do it. I thought she owed me an apology, which also was true. She had been disrespectful. But I wasn’t responsible for her behavior. I have a hard enough time being responsible for mine. In her moment of futility I thought only of myself, pointing out her failure.
With great difficulty, I left my apology at her feet and walked away. It felt like giving back ten dollars I’d borrowed from someone who had taken twenty from me. Sadly, my efforts were not reciprocated. Two-way reconciliation broke down because she was motivated to forgive but unwilling to be forgiven (to paraphrase James Berkley). However, in the wake of this lopsided outcome, I had the opportunity to see myself more clearly. Was I content to do what I believed was right, or was I only content when doing the right thing did something for me?
1) Own your percent.
Everyone trusts their objectivity in a conflict. We confidently assign 51% of the blame to the other person, letting ourselves off the hook. Pay what you owe. Every debt we pay is to a debtor.
2) The one who hits back gets caught.
People will provoke you and then fault you for your response. The hard part is they may be hypocrites, but they’re also right.
3) Hold tight. “The truth will out.”
Half truth eventually runs out of steam. It’s like someone sitting in an awkward position and pretending they’re relaxed. At some point, adjustments will be necessary. Resist the strong urge to defend yourself. As Shakespeare said, “The truth will out.”
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