The following is an excerpt from a manuscript penned by me, that is currently lying in seeming limbo on a publisher's desk. Hopefully there rather than in his round-file. The book, thematically, is a guide to life for middle-aged men. Enjoy -- I hope.
No unknown enemies here. You're fully aware of who those bastards are that have ground you down with impunity throughout your life. You've had to deal with plenty of them as you have slogged through your days, wanting always to do the right thing, but being thwarted by agenda driven adversaries.
Consequently, there is nothing you'd like more than to see those guys get what they deserve. After all, you have told yourself, more times than you'd care to admit, that what goes around, comes around and we don't get mad, we get even, and other impotence inspired cliches that offer little real solace of the sort you might get from an Uzi.
Certain people have done unspeakable, intolerable and unconscionable things to you. Things you haven't deserved. And the people that have laid this shit on you haven't been far-away enemies, but instead, your so-called nearest-and-dearest, like your parents, siblings, other family members, neighbors, lovers, and spouses. In your outer life, you've also had to dodge the blows and backstabbings of teachers, bosses, cops, drill sergeants, postal clerks, bankers, customs officers, colleagues, and in fact representative examples of virtually every group on the planet.
And, it's just not right that they should have gotten away with it. Some people have hurt you more than others either because they had larger and more dominant roles to play in your life, or the nature of their transgressions went beyond the commonplace. In some cases the wounds never really went away, but still drag you down whenever you let your mind go to the time and circumstances of injury -- which it seems to do far too often. The masochistic exercise of 'poor me' is like worrying a bad tooth with your tongue. You know it's going to hurt, but you compulsively go there anyway.
You have sought recompense, or at least some sort of acknowledgment from those who have hurt you, since they owe you at least a gesture of contrition. If that hasn't happened -- and it rarely does -- then your mind has turned to thoughts of vengeance. You want to see them whimper. You want to see them beg you for mercy. You want to be like Dirty Harry Callaghan and direct them to "make (your) day!"
You've watched court cases in which you've personalized the of those ofthose who have had a child molested or murdered, or a wife raped, only to see the scumbag who carried out the crime cop a plea and get off with apathetic and unjustifiable manslaughter sentence. You've thought, if it were my wife or daughter, I'd hire somebody to waste the bastard, since the courts in our fair land no longer seem willing or able to carry out their ordained duties.
If you've dwelt long enough on the rotten things others have done to you, then usually by middle age you've become a festering mass of resentment sores, and your life has never had a moment's peace, since you've not been able to let go of the ways in which you've been brutalized physically, emotionally and spiritually. I'm not suggesting that you might be exaggerating your pain. People truly have transgressed all areas of your integrity and perpetrated terrible acts of cruelty, disloyalty, and out-and-out vileness. It happens all the time, and few of us escape unscathed by the thoughtless, self-seeking, cruel, and even evil dealings of our fellows. I know I haven't.
To put it right, we say that all we're seeking is justice. And in our hearts, we are. But, what we really want is revenge. Revenge tastes sweet. An act of revenge tells us we're not powerless, and woe be to those who thought we were. They will see the error of their ways -- won't they?Unfortunately, they won't. If somebody who has wronged you (possibly unwittingly) feels ashamed, they might make some sort of amends to you. They might indeed seek your forgiveness. Such a person will likely do that because he or she is a decent human being like you are.
But, in many cases you will get no apology. There are a few reasons for this. One, you have done something to hurt the person in question, and they are seeking their own revenge against you by retaliating in a way they knew would hurt you. Two, the object of your detestation is a psychopathic shit. Or three, and more commonly, you will get no contrition because this person sees the situation from his or her perspective, not yours. From that vantage point, everything looks jake. And, be honest, isn't that a bit like where you are coming from in your vengeful consternation? Consider the scenario that follows:
Let's say your wife is working late at the law offices Fosdickand, Fosdick and Fosdick, and the senior Fosdick comes over to her and says there are some business matters he wants to discuss. But, he wants to get out of the office, so he suggests they go for a drink. After a moment's hesitation, she agrees. And she goes. And she and Fosdick have a drink (Fosdick has three because he's a lush, but she only has a glass of white wine), discuss the business issues and she departs for home the moment it's completed. She arrives home an hour late. You're beside yourself. Where was she? Why didn't she phone? She might have been in an accident. "What, you went for a drink with that oily bastard Fosdick!" You're outraged. How dare she go out drinking with another man? She patiently tries to explain the situation, but you'll have none of it. You rant and froth at the mouth, demanding that she apologize for the terrible thing she has done. She knows she has done nothing wrong and finally, since you've pushed all the paranoid codependency buttons in the household, she tells you to go off and have sexual intercourse with yourself. You storm out of the room and go to the rec-room to pout. You ponder divorce; wonder if she and Fosdick are involved in an affair; think about how you might 'get' Fosdick, or maybe you should just pop him one at the next staff party. It's an ugly scene all around. If you really want to milk it, you can carry on for days and make yourself and everyone else in the household miserable.
What's happening is you are viewing the incident from your perspective and she is viewing it from hers. There is no resolution to this sort of domestic overkill other than time, since no apology is going to be forthcoming. No apology is needed. Once you have calmed down, if you have an ounce of maturity, you' ll face that 'fact.
What I discovered in recent years is that I spent too much of my life going about this thing the wrong way. I too, in the past, suffered 'Fosdick Angst', all of it based on my insecurity. As I've gotten older, and have gained more life experience, I've found that I am able to see situations just a tiny bit more from the perspective of another. Furthermore, I've actually found that my heart has gotten bigger. Life is short. I don't want to be mired in resentment. Therefore, I've concluded that I have to take matters into my own hands, and I have to carry out the act of forgiving people who just might have wronged me.
Have I gotten soft? I hope not. But, I have gotten more realistic in my perspective. If people have wronged me, then I have also wronged others. And I have often done so unwittingly, and have been shocked when my transgressions were pointed out to me. How many people have hurt me equally unwittingly? We're all inclined to have our heads up our own backsides much of the time, and none of us pays as much heed to others and their wants and needs as we do to our own. So, we don't have clean slates ourselves.
The irony is that in gaining some understanding, I have also gotten more unwavering and less tolerant in some regards. I believe society is often misguidedly conciliatory, and I am convinced that for the smooth operation of our systems, people have to take responsibility for their infractions. Terrible behavior is granted tacit acceptance due to weak-kneed and cowardly judges, overburdened courts and prosecutors who will opt for the plea-bargain or deal in lieu of the just sentence, because it's cheaper and less messy.
Likewise, too much consideration is given to the so-called 'human rights' of the perpetrators, and too little is given to the uninvited grief that victims, their families and loved ones undergo. Yes, justice should be tempered with mercy, but only to the degree that it doesn't interfere with recompense to the injured. I believe in justice, true justice, and I resolutely believe in accountability. I loathe such cliches as 'Do the crime, do the time,' but sometimes they are apt. We are too quick to find mitigation for major infractions of the general weal. If the debt to society has been paid, then I am prepared to forgive. But, my general view of forgiveness has little or nothing to do with the persecution and prosecution of society's misfeasors.
In a way forgiveness is a selfish act. It's a means of unburdening myself, and it also negates any power my erstwhile adversary might think he or she still holds over me. I can win even when it might appear I am losing by being civil to a bastard. In offering my contrition to those I believe I have wronged, I neither expect nor demand the same from them. A trusted friend said: "Pray for those who have wronged you; those who you think you hate. Don't pray for those who love you and are nice to you; that's too easy." I like the idea. It works. How it works is that it gets you into a mode of positive thinking. If you forgive, the endorphins will start flowing in good directions. Forgiveness is not 'the' key to happiness, but it has a lot of power. Try it. You might like it.
But, if forgiveness doesn't work, I do know some guys who will do 'anything' for a few bucks.