Trying to Decide about Defenses and Forgiveness

I am trying to decide if my coping mechanism is beneficial or detrimental. I cope with adversity by trying to circumvent it with positivity, which I know can be a positive attribute sometimes, but at other times it makes my head feel like it might explode. I try very hard to be the voice of reason and grace around other people, but I find that I get home at night and realize that I spent the whole day, and too much energy, trying to help other people see the positive sides of people, situations, and events. This frequently leaves me exhausted. Today was one of those days. I am tired.

I don’t think I bury my head in the sand about difficult issues, but my parents always told me two things that shape how I try to react. (Here I say try to remind you, dear reader, that I by no means succeed at this lifestyle every day. I am far too self-reflective to think I am a perfectly amiable Pollyanna. In fact, this is far from the truth.) First they told me: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” And they told me: “You have to choose your battles carefully.” I suppose there are really three things that apply to this situation, because my parents also told me that “you can be part of the problem or part of the solution, so make up your mind to be part of the solution.” This takes energy and finesse, but I don’t remember my parents ever telling me about that part of the equation. I think they knew I’d figure it out for myself.

On a similar note, I can’t imagine being one of those people who is always angry at everyone and everything, but I imagine it’s somewhat freeing on one regard. If you don’t care about people, then you don’t care how situations are resolved. In another regard, I think it must be incredibly oppressive to always be beholden to anger. And, anger can eat somebody up. I’ve watch it consume several of my friends, belch, wipe it’s mouth, and then say, “Good eats.”

I thought about this as my students were watching Forgiving Dr. Mengele. In the movie, Eva Kor offers amnesty to all Nazis, forgiving them for their role in Hitler’s regime. She does it so that she can sleep at night. She does it because she says that forgiveness gives her a clear conscience. She does it in order to live freely. I told my students that part of the importance of offering forgiveness is that it releases a person from another person’s further control. If someone can forgive another’s wrongs against her, she ends up being the one who is more free because she doesn’t have to continue to suffer through the oppression of the other person’s anger. She, in essence, subverts the power dynamic and regain control of her own emotions. She’s no longer hi-jacked by someone else’s behavior. I think it’s a fair exchange for giving someone grace.

I had the opportunity to practice this today, and I failed. Someone stole an idea of mine, and then passed it off as her own. Instead of just letting it go, I vented about it to someone else, not even to the person who did it. It was a pretty cowardly move. Hopefully, the people involved will give me grace. And, hopefully, I learn from this mistake.

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