A character flaw that seems to be prevalent among some accomplished, successful people is hubris. In Greek classical drama, it is the “overweening pride that leads to disaster… the refusal to accept the authority of the gods.” It can cause drowning in emotional quicksand.
Precious relationships fall apart when individuals commit mistakes but refuse to admit these and apologize.
Once upon a time, there was a story of friends who were “frenemies.” A misunderstanding caused a fissure that opened into a deep chasm. It was the result of a bad combination: A simple business deal and the passing of a close associate who had kept the delicate balance between the protagonists. There was a heavy dose of hidden envy and jealousy.
On the surface, they had a glaze of social niceties and civility. Underneath, there was a simmering irritation that deteriorated to a smoldering anger. It was one-sided.
Grief triggered a vicious verbal attack by one friend. The incident was witnessed by a few people at a private meeting. Then the nasty smear campaign began.
The innocent victim (who had been hurt) had to endure speculations by judgmental onlookers. The insidious whispering campaign spread. It was like a telenovela — the spectacle of one person being fed to the hungry lions in an arena.
Friends came to the rescue, to defend the bewildered victim. Instead of fighting back, he remained silent and did not fan the fire. Eventually, the people got tired and noticed that it was not true. The damage was done but it could have been worse if there had been a legal case. There had been another nasty incident that happened earlier. There was a report of theft, but the case remained in the police files. It would have been an entertaining, dramatic story for columnists because these characters were well-known in the community.
It took many years for the self-righteous person to realize that he had stained the reputation of a former friend. He was smart and established but there was a dark side. He was a Pharisee — arrogant, condescending and devious.
A former colleague described him as Dr. Jekyll.
In his old age, he abruptly cleared his conscience. He sent a note that might have been his version of a half-baked apology.
The word “peace” was mentioned. It was accepted. And the lingering ghostly haze vanished.
The psychiatrist Thomas Szasz once wrote in his book The Second Sin, “The stupid neither forgive nor forget; the naive forgive and forget; the wise forgive but do not forget.”
Closure, at last.
The Romantic period poet, painter, visionary William Blake wrote to bring a change in the social order and the minds of men. He wrote:
“The Poison Tree”
I was angry at my friend;
I told my wrath; my wrath did end.
I was angry at my foe;
I told it not, my wrath did grow.
And I watered it in fears,
Night & morning with my tears;
And I sunned it with smiles,
And with soft deceitful wiles.
And it grew both day and night.
Till it bore and apple bright,
And my foe beheld it shine,
And he knew that it was mine.
And into my garden stole,
When the night had veild the pole;
In the morning glad I see;
My foe outstretched beneath the tree.
In contrast, Blake also wrote the immortal verses about the glorious facets of nature and an open attitude to the Divine.
“Auguries of Innocence”
To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour….
There is hope, a flickering light that guides us. Amidst the darkness and uncertainty, most people are undergoing trials, struggling to survive, coping with devastating losses, personal and financial.
Some individuals are thriving, finding new ways to overcome and live in a new normal. So many have sunk into depression. A few have emerged from the depths. What used to be their normal — isolation and sadness — is now the new normal.
During the past 15 months, they feel that they are no longer alone. They are becoming productive, creative.
With faith and patience, the transformation is slowly happening.
Maria Victoria Rufino is an artist, writer and businesswoman. She is president and executive producer of Maverick Productions.