"Have compassion for everyone you meet, even if they don't want it. What appears bad manners, an ill temper, or cynicism, is always a sign of things no ears have heard, no eyes have seen. You do not know what wars are going on down there where the spirit meets the bone." ~ Miller Williams
I was struck by the last line of this quote by Miller Williams because it relates perfectly to a situation that a friend of mine encountered this week. My friend was in town for a business meeting, and when he went to say good-bye to his boss, his boss pulled out a holiday gift and card for him. The card detailed everything he admired about my friend, and given my friend's talents, I am sure that the list of admirable qualities was long. The oddest thing about this encounter is that my friend's boss never gives Christmas presents, never says what he admires about others, and would be hard pressed to give anyone a heart-felt compliment unless there was some personal gain to be had from doing so.
My friend's boss was saying good-bye with this gift and card. It appears that his boss's time is up at their company, and parting is a difficult thing for someone who thought he was playing the game by all the right rules. He probably was; the trouble is that with this economy the ground shifts so quickly, and with it the game and subsequent rules change as well. It's just that no one tells you when a change has occurred. My friend's boss learned this lesson the hard way.
For about a year, I've been upset with my friend's boss. He's been manipulative and cruel, someone who took some kind of sad, sick pleasure in making someone else feel small. He was the consummate bad cop. Now, I'm not so sure. Maybe that bad cop was a front. Maybe there was always a good guy underneath that tough veneer. Maybe there was a heart there all along.
I guess we never really know what's going on inside someone's mind and soul. All we truly know are their actions and words. I suspect that my friend's boss was motivated by fear, and that caused him to behave so badly for so long. Now his number's up, and he's regretting some of his actions and words, wishing he could change them and knowing that it is far too late to fully make amends. The gift and the card is the best he can do, and perhaps that's enough.
A number of years ago, I had a boss who impressed me with one lesson that I think about all the time. A team member of ours was horribly rude to my boss, in public, and a few days later the team member came into my boss's office to apologize. My boss accepted the apology, no questions asked. I was stunned.
"How could you do that?" I asked him.
"Christa, asking for forgiveness is the hardest thing we do in life. You have to let someone apologize. If someone has the courage to come to me and apologize, then I can have the courage to forgive them."
It was one of those light bulb moments for me and I try to keep it close to my heart, even when someone has hurt me terribly. We have to let people say they're sorry, in their own way, in their own time. Sometimes it's in the form of a present or card, as it was between my friend and his boss. Sometimes it's a phone call, or an email, or a simple face-to-face conversation. By asking for forgiveness and granting it we can help one another to ease any tension that arises where the spirit meets the bone. And that might be the greatest gift we can ever give or receive.
The images above is not my own. It can be found here.