Facing Faults and Fears Part 3 ~ The Grudge?

Unforgiveness or Moving On?

There are times when I struggle with the word forgiveness.  Not so much as whether I have the ability to forgive someone in terms of pardoning a sin.  Lord knows we all have them and each of us take our turns needing grace from someone.  What I question is the true definition of forgiveness and whether restoration has to be a part of the process for forgiveness to be legit or complete.   As I get older, I question my old way of thinking and tend to think not.

As an example there was a friend of mine who I have been cool with for almost 20 years.  We’ve shared many stories of joy and pain and have been there for one another throughout both good and difficult times.  Well I going through something last year and I shared it with this person.  My car had some major engine damage and I was scrambling to come up with the several thousand dollars to have it fixed.  I needed the car for transportation for working both my 9-5 as well as my officiating jobs that I already had lined up.

Speaking with him about the situation, he said, “I am so sorry to hear about your car.”  I said that I appreciated it and just to let it be known I am taking donations.  He thought I was joking but I clarified my desperation. 

Mind you… I have NEVER asked this person for a dime.  Neither had I ever asked my mother since I left her home at the age of 14.  But I did this time.  This person asked me what my car payment was (monthly).  I gave the amount and he said they would help me out with one month’s payment.  “Great, !”  I said as I voiced my appreciation. 

He gave me a date and I said Ok.  The date passed and I didn’t hear anything.  I called and didn’t get an answer.  After a week I received a call from this person saying he was out of town and didn’t have a chance to go to the bank but that the money was forthcoming within a day.  I said that was fine.

After another week I called again, not for the money just to see if he were OK.  Still didn’t get an answer.

The next time I called the person answered the phone… perhaps by mistake and I could him him talking to someone else.

I hung up the phone.

Later I sent an email to the person letting him know that I was really hurt.  Not because of the money because anyone has the right to do with their money as they please even if they say they are going to do one thing and later change their mind.  But to not say anything and avoid me?  I thought we were way better than that.  I put it behind me and left it alone.

Well after 8 or 9 months, I get a text from this person saying, “Hey.”  I looked at it, remembered the number (because I had previously deleted it out of my phone) and thought to myself, “Hey what?”  My initial thought was that we didn’t have anything to talk about.  I didn’t see any explanations or apologies for the times I was calling and didn’t get an answer.  I just erased it and kept on stepping. 

Now here are the questions I have to ask myself when I try to identify the forgiveness thing.  

Question: Am I upset at this person?  Am I holding this against him?

Answer:  I honestly don’t believe I am.  I managed to get my car fixed and I have moved on.  I regretted that the friendship couldn’t handle the topic of money and though the subject never came up between us before, the only reason I asked was because I  felt we were ‘cool like that.’  That was a sign of deep humility and respect for me to even think of asking this person because I don’t just ask anybody for anything.

Question:  What is my reluctance from speaking to this person stemming from?

Answer:  I believe it’s stems from the fact that I thought we were cool.  And regardless of money, even if the person were a millionaire, I would not have felt he was obligated to give me anything.  But the fact that he promised something and avoided me as if I were a pesky beggar made me question the entire friendship.  My thinking is, “Where would we pick up from here?  If we ain’t soul after almost 20 years, I can’t see it materializing now.” 

When it comes to my inner circle, I am fiercely loyal.  And when that loyalty is not returned as opposed to rolling over like I did back in the day for the sake of being what I believed was Christian about it, I’ve had a change of heart.  Now when folks cross me a certain way, I just tend to be done with them.   Not cause I’m mad, but because I just don’t have time to pretend that a close friendships is anything but superficial if that is all it really is.  Everyone has superficial people in their lives.  And with these folks we don’t expect much.  But a friend is supposed to be a friend.

I had some beef with another friend of mine for a minute.  And because we were boys for real, we eventually had our say man to man and hashed the stuff out.  I consider him an even better friend now.  We got through a big storm where feelings were hurt on both sides.  We learned that our loyalty was strong even when we didn’t think it was.  I say that to say this is not about X’ing people out of my life just because I feel like it.  As I said I value my inner circle.

So what do you think?  Am I being too cold in this situation?  Am I holding a grudge?  Should I have responded to this person and perhaps he would have apologized?  (From what I know of this person, I don’t think he would have said anything about it.  I think he just wanted to pretend like it was all good though I could be wrong)  This is my dillema.  The old way of thinking for me would be the quickly accept this person back into my good graces.  The older, wiser me (in my opinion) says, F it!  No hard feelings on my part, but like Mint Condition, “We’ve Nothing Left To Say.”

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Embracing Pride (Part 2) When Enemies Become Friends

Two sayings come to mind for this post.   “Always remember to keep your friends close and your enemies closer.”  And, “We have no permanent friends and no permanent enemies, only permanent interest.”  The first I heard in a scene from the classic film, “The Godfather.”  The other I heard from talk show host and political activist Tavis Smiley though he may have not originated it.  These are some of the wisest statements ever and yet many of us sleep on its genius.  I definitely have not fully subscribed in the past because when I think of enemies I think of the hurt they have caused me – the betrayal, the lies, etc.  My first instinct when coming across the people who I know have hurt me intentionally – (though sometimes they even smile in my face) is to resist them at all cost.  If I see he/she coming one way, I usually go the other.  I avoided conversation and any type of small talk or contact with the individuals who I knew not to have my best interest at heart.

However, I am learning now that total isolation from our enemies can do more harm than good in the long run.  My classroom has been within some of my own business dealings.  One of my business ventures requires a lot of networking and since I am new to this particular business that means double for me.  It’s been often said that it’s not about what you know – it’s who you know.  Well that’s not completely true.  In reality it’s who knows you!  I can know the CEO of a company but in order for me to benefit from his/her favor or influence depends on if he/she knows who I am when my name is mentioned.  Fortunately, I have managed to gain quite a few notable contacts within this field that now know and respect my name.  And slowly I am building up credentials that will give me business for several years to come should everything continue on course.  But as in any venture I also have my share of detractors and haters.  (Thank you Rich House for reminding me to embrace my haters!)  One such hater is actually a person I have known for over 10 years.  He has been in the field for over 20 years and I looked to him for guidance, advice and connections.  Admittedly this person started off helping me quite a bit.  But then I noticed a turn in his attitude after he began to notice that I started to take off and create a network for myself which increased my opportunities within the field.  He noticed me at different places and wondered aloud to me, “How did you get turned on to this?  Who did you speak with?  That person didn’t call me.  How much business did you acquire? Etc.”  I could tell in his tone that he was envious at my progress – and I have very strong evidence that he made efforts to take some business away from me that I obtained through a mutual  contact.  From the beginning these revelations hurt quite a bit.  And I felt that a person of his stature should be happy for me – especially because he knew of my career situation and the fact that I was struggling to make ends meet.  Initially I though to avoid this person – or even give him a piece of my mind.  Instead, I kept my approach professional and gave him the appearance of respect.  In the meantime when he ask I don’t give him accurate accounts of my progress – and since he still has the power to give me business occasionally, I give him the impression of gratefulness on my behalf.  For every time I get even an ounce of business from him, I have the opportunity to profit initially and show my skills and abilities to other potential clients.  Its not as if I am not thankful in reality.  It’s that I understand the games being played when ego and greed are involved.  Often to get what we want we may have to stroke or placate someone’s ego a bit for desired results. 

This lesson came up again as I was reading, “An Ordinary Man,” written by Paul Rusesabagina who was the manager of the Hotel des Mille Collines in Rwanda as portrayed by Don Cheadle in the movie, Hotel Rwanda.”  He spoke of doing business with many of the people he did not consider to be friends – some of whom were out to kill him and the over 1200 refugees he protected in the hotel during the genocide in 1994.  General Augustin Bizimungu was a major player in the vicious murders of 800,000 Rwandans.  He was charged with war crimes and is in a Tanzanian prison.  In the midst of the unrest and extreme violence, Paul maintained a friendship with him that was started mostly by Paul’s services rendered to the general and people of power like him at the hotel.  But it was with a purpose.  Paul explains it himself in his book, “An Ordinary Man.”

I have been criticized for my friendship with him during the genocide, but I have never apologized for it.  “How could you have stayed close to such a vile man?”  I am asked, and my answer is this: I do not excuse whatever he may have done to promote the genocide, but I never heard him agree with any of the bloodshed when he was in my presence.  I had to stay close to him because he could help me save lives.  I would have stayed close to anyone who could help me do that. 

He then went further to illustrate yet another important point.  In describing the general in more depth:

… There is a saying in Rwanda: “Every man has a secret corner in his mind that nobody will ever know.”  And I do not think I know enough about Bizimungu’s secret corner to judge him.  He may have done terrible things in Rwanda before and during the genocide, but I know that he stepped in for me at crucial moments to save lives of innocent people when it was of no conceivable benifit to him.  If I had ended that friendship, I do not think I would be here to write these words today.  There are at least 1,268 people who survived the killing partly because of the instructions of Bizimungu. In my book that counts for something.  (P. 162-163)

 

While I am disapointed in this particular person, I am not going to write off his value and humanity.  He is still a child of God in my eyes and each day he lives, like myself he has opportunity for regeneration and growth. If he wants to hurt me for apparently no reason, then there is something inside himself that is lacking.  But I digress.  The main point is that there is no shame to the one to doing business with people who think less of your value.  It is in no way selling out as long inward dignity is preserved.  As the bible says, in life we have to be as wise as serpents and yet gentle as doves.  Many black men for instance had to subject their egos at the door of humility when operating within Jim Crow segregation.  They were called boy, and at other times much worse.  While some men felt inferior I’m sure, still many more understood other people’s ignorance could not define them.  And having the ability to earn a living for family is honorable above all.  As I like to say, this is an inward issue.  Its one thing to cower from within and an even worse practice to betray one’s principles for a dollar; I know many such men who appear to be well off and yet inwardly they are slaves to their position, status and income.  But I submit as well that a man can pick his battles, act strategically, get his money and keep his dignity.  In this case, I am such the man.

Perhaps one day I may let this person know that I have known for some time that he has not had my best interest at heart.  But for the foreseeable future – I can allow his ego to flounder while it falsely confirms itself as superior in my own financial interest.

Selah

Pictured is Paul Rusesabagina with me and my son Christian during a book signing visit in St. Louis

Friends Beyond Language ~ Or Something Like It

When I was growin up in South Bend, Indiana from the ages of 8-14, part of the fun for me was living among other cultures and races.  Most all of the people I came into contact with living in East St. Louis, Illinois were black.  When we moved and I started going to Benjamin Harrison School K-8, I was exposed to not only people of African-Descent who looked like me, but also Caucasions and Mexicans.  As a matter of fact, there was a very large Mexican migration from Mexico and Texas during the 70s and early 80s.  This is common place now in America, but South Bend was at that time starting to become just as integreated as Chicago or Miami would be.  Having a love for people of all races, I quickly made friends with many people.  There was Robert Laskowski.  He was a cool Polish kid who was my age.  There was Alfred Hernandez, he was a Mexican kid who was a couple years younger than me.  So he was like a little brother to me.  After he and I became friends I found out that he had a sister (Leticia) as well that was in my class that I had a big crush on.  (Thats another blog so stay tuned.)  I had Black friends too like Ivel Jennings.   Each of these friendships were special to me.  But none of them had the unusual circumstances surrounding them like the friendship I had with Jose Cuevas. 

Jose was a year older than me.  We both lived on Liberty and his house was just a block away.  He came by way of Mexico to live with his uncle.  They had a large family and to this day I don’t remember exactly how we met or got hooked up.  But we did.  We hung out all the time walking the neighborhoods.  We’d walk to the store, catch the bus or ride our bikes to the mall.  Normally if you saw me you saw Jose.   Sounds like a typical boyhood friendship right?  But not quite.  I would talk and talk and talk to Jose, but Jose never talked back.  Thats because Jose didn’t understand English, nor did he speak it.  That didn’t stop me from talking as if he understood everything I said, nor did it stop him from hanging out with me.

It was over Jose’s house that I learned what real authentic Mexican food taste like.  Yummy!  I saw his aunt make homemade tortillas and they would warm them by putting them on top of the burning eye on top of the stove.  When one side was warm after a few seconds they would take their hands and flip them over without getting burned.  It was over Jose’s house that I learned what birthday parties with Piñatas were all about.  Only half of his household spoke English.  He had an older cousin who used to whistle that flirting whistle every time she saw me before giggling and walking away into the other room.  I never heard her speak a word of English.  They were the absolute coolest people and I loved going over there.  They accepted me as one of their own.  When Jose wanted to get my attention, he would whistle as well – not the flirting kind but in a “heads up” way to get my attention and then he would point to something or the direction he wanted to go.  And thats how we got down. 

Sometimes I often felt sorry for Jose too because he also went to Harrison School, and one day while walking home from school he showed me his report card.  I was proud of mine and happy that the good grades I got assured me of not getting punished once my mother saw it.  But not Jose’s.  It had a full row of F’s from top to bottom.  Its not that Jose was stupid, he didn’t understand the language and there was absolutely nothing in place for him to transition.  Even in the 5th grade I could figure that out.  I’m not sure if he even knew his grades were bad or not. 

Later on Jose learned to speak some English, though he never revealed this piece of information to me.  I learned it purely by mistake ~ or should I say by some strange circumstances. 

I walked to Jose’s house and though he were not home his uncle told me where to find him.  He was at a neighbor’s house in the garage.  I went through the backyard, around the alley and eventually found the garage.  Opening the door to look for my “boy” my mouth went agape after my eyes fixed on what Jose had in his hands.  It was a blunt!  I could smell it all in the garage and I was shocked.  Beginning my lecture I started in.  “Jose, what are you doing?”  (I was real proper talking back then) “I can’t believe you are in here smoking marijuana!”  (yes i said marijuana) “Man are you crazy, dope is for dopes and junk is for junkies!”  (I saw that on an episode of Fat Albert.) “What do you have to say for yourself?!” I said that as if I expected this dude to talk, but you have to understand that is how we, errr I always communicated. 

Jose said nothing… just sat there with this stupid look on his face as if he had not understood one damn thing I said.  Finally I said, “Well if you have nothing to say fine!   I am leaving!”  As I stormed out his friend with whom he was sharing the ‘budda’ blurted out in a Latin accent, “Hey man, he’s gonna tell!”  He said it in English not Spanish.  Well all of a sudden, in the name of Jimmy Swaggert a miracle occured.  Jose began to speak… English no less.  He ran after me exlaming, “Cliss Cliss… WAIT!” 

The fact that he did learn some English without telling me didn’t seem to bother me at that time at all.  Nevermind we had been cool for almost a year and the cat never spoke a word to me.  I was not a snitch and was quick to let him know.  “Man I ain’t gonna tell on you!  I just don’t want to be around while your smoking that dope!” 

Jose and I never spoke again about that little incident.  I acted as if it had never happened.  Shortly aftwerwards he moved to Texas to stay with some other relatives.  I assume their school systems were better able to accomodate a young man trying to learn his way around and eventually become a citizen.  He surfaced again a couple years later speaking English a lot better.  By then all he could talk about was girls.  He was 16 now and his hormones were going a mile a minute.  I wasn’t into lusting yet.  So I couldn’t relate.  Our friendship was never the same and I learned for the first time that you can’t always pick up where you left off.  I’ll never forget Jose.  I sometimes wonder what he is up to.  But I laugh at the thought that when it comes to the fear of getting in trouble, language becomes universal.