There was a lecturer in university I didn’t like too much. We didn’t have a personal relationship, so you could argue, quite validly, that I had no business not liking him. It was more his reputation I didn’t like. How grossly unfair is that? Going on what other people said about him instead of bothering to get to know the man himself.
Now that I’m older (a good bit) and wiser ( a little bit), I hope I know better than to do that again. Although it’s not a given, as I am still given to occasional bouts of stupidity.
Looking back to that time, my own insecurity was probably in the mix too. He was relatively famous, undeniably talented and I might have felt inadequate in his presence and therefore resentful. All his fault, I think you’ll agree!
The point of this story is that when I came to do my final exams, he was one of the examiners. The mark he gave me was responsible for me getting a decent degree. Go figure.
So what to do with these misguided feelings? Do you eat a large slice of humble pie and admit that you were wrong all along? Forgive this person against whom you held this imaginary, overblown grudge? Forgive yourself for holding this imaginary, overblown grudge? Chalk it up to a life lesson? God forbid, actually learn from this life lesson …?
Fast forward several years later and I was a practicing lawyer (mostly practicing not to get sued or fired). There was a colleague I really didn’t care for. In fairness to myself, I did actually know him personally this time. I found him pretentious, inauthentic and full of hot air. I was essentially allergic to the man. But he turned out to be the one who got me out of hot water on more than one occasion. He didn’t have to. He had nothing to gain from it and I’d never done anything in particular to help him out. He was more senior and had for more kudos than me in the local legal arena. Which wasn’t all that hard. Was I really ever a lawyer? Looking back, I can see that he was just being kind. He saw somebody needing a dig out and he gave it to her. That’s not to say he wasn’t pretentious and sometimes full of ****. But there was a lot more to him than that. As Walt Whitman said, so wisely:
I am large, I contain multitudes.
As it was with Whitman, it was with this man, as it is with me, as it is with all of us.
I consider myself a fundamentally nice human being. However … I can be not so nice at times. Don’t approach me when I’m hangry, for example. And I can certainly be judgmental. Did you pick up on that one?
I do think as you get older, you realize life is not so black and white. Shades of grey abound — a damn sight more than fifty of them. We can all be nice and horrible, patient and impatient, satisfied and dissatisfied. It can depend on so many factors: amount of sleep, blood sugar level, hormone dips and surges and certain psychological buttons being pressed.
How about being a bit more lenient on ourselves and others?
Those two men, without even knowing it, played significant roles in my life. Which also goes to show, we don’t always know how our words or actions are going to affect other people.
So what do we do with our feelings when people we don’t like do us a good turn?
Well, we could always get over ourselves. Admit that we aren’t always right. Thank them, either internally or otherwise. Then go on to help other people, even if we think they don’t really like us all that much.