In my life I have often been accused by my enemies of writing villain tales where other people are completely devoid of human feelings and two-dimensional cardboard figures, all the while they shouted lies and slander about me. I find this ironic, even hypocritical, but in truth I have met no people that I would consider as black-hearted villains devoid of worth as human beings. I have met quite a few people that I did not like having to deal with, many people that I have not trusted, many people who disappointed me and acted rudely towards me. Likewise, there are certainly many people who I have acted rudely towards, both unintentionally and intentionally. We are all human beings with shadow and light inside of us—hopefully the light is in the process of completely overcoming the darkness, but we ought not to expect perfection, or see perfect villainy, in the heart of anyone, not even ourselves.
The fact is, most of the people I have had problems with have been because we saw the world very differently. And in many cases, however much we may bother each other (the feelings of frustration have usually been mutual), there were reasons on both sides. I have always been the kind of person who did things the way I wanted to do them and never bothered much with petty rules and regulations. This is not to say that I am a vocal rebel about matters, far from it. I quietly do what I want to do, and don’t fuss about with anyone else. I don’t make a scene, my pleasures and actions are simple and straightforward, if private, and I am not a person who desires what is sinful or debauched. But at the same time if rules are in the way of what I want, I have little interest in obeying them for the sake of formality. Those who live and die by rules and procedures I have little sympathy for—I play for far larger game.
Now, I will own that this is a weakness. It has certainly created severe difficulties in my life. The fact that many of the people I have dealt with have been hypocritical in their own enforcement of the rules is not strictly relevant either, but it suggests the mixed motives of all human beings. I am very prickly about being treated with respect. If I view that others are treating me disrespectfully, I move very rapidly from my native form of emotionally distant but chatty politeness to high levels of hostility. That said, I have often not been sufficiently concerned about the sensitivities of other people, and have made many unnecessary enemies by hitting them in sensitive spots without any evil intent or motive. Despite my crossing swords with many people in the course of my conflict-ridden life, I see the people I have debated, argued or fought with as people like myself. They had their own worldviews, their own plans and goals, their own sensitivities, and I have mine. The fact that we could not get along was lamentable, in some cases unavoidable, and perhaps in the future possible of remedy, with some mutual apologies.
Even those who have deeply hurt me often did so either unknowingly or without malice. As a pretty vengeful and spiteful person by nature, I have said many harsh things that I wish I had put less harshly. That said, the harshness was almost always proportional to the hurt of the betrayal, and almost never without some kind of warning. I recognize that other people often warn in their own ways, which are not mine, and the things I am most sensitive about other people do not care about, and vice versa. And often those who were harsh did so because of their own vulnerabilities. I am not so unsympathetic as to neglect that. When I was growing up as a much-teased and much-bullied young person, I remember one girl in that group of tormentors (I remember her face, at least, though not her name) and I remember running into her at a particularly cheap grocery store. Looking back on it, I see that she probably joined in the teasing and ridicule to throw attention off of her. While it was an unkind deed, it was not a villainous one. Life is full of cruelty, and sometimes one does not see any better options than attacking someone else to defend yourself. Sometimes there are no other options. As someone who behaves the same way, I do not think others who behave that way towards me are black-hearted villains devoid of virtue, but rather enemies I have to deal with.
In fact, I would say the great majority of my enemies, from those inside my own family to those with whom my interactions have been very slight, but negative, have been enemies as a result of mutual insecurities. (After all, insecurities is but another name for sensitivities—a person who is entirely secure is not defensive or prickly about anything.) I remember one enemy I made of someone who was not unlike myself, according to a mutual and trustworthy friend. This fellow was a minister who, like me, had a love of making typos. Being someone who makes them often, I joked with him about his typos on a Power Point slide he had made about the subject of generational cycles, a subject of mutual interest. He took this very personally and has attacked me publicly since then on numerous occasions. Here was a man whose insecurities as a minister led him to attack the local council in his congregation because of his fears about his own power base. He was not an evil man or a wicked man, simply an insecure one, and unaware that the person joking with him was not really his enemy, but a potential friend. Had I known it was a particularly sore spot I would have instead given him compliments on how he dealt with a subject of great interest to me—the relationship of generational cycles to history, and not mentioned his spelling errors at all—they were after all minor and insignificant, nothing that I have not done many times in my own writings and presentations, and nothing a good copy editor could not fix. It was not worth making an enemy over—but when he responded to my own gentle teasing by making reference to my early childhood under a false name, he made himself mine. And yet he is not a villain any more than I am—and I am no villain myself.
In many of my blog entries I have ponder the nature of conflict—conflict between nations, conflict between people in churches and families and businesses. I have written essays about the biblical way of war and my own studies in military history. Many conflicts, perhaps most, have their beginning in misunderstanding and extreme sensitivities. Being a person both easily misunderstood and not always able to understand where others are coming from, and being a person who tends to be prickly and more than a bit oversensitive, I can very easily understand how this is the case. At an early stage of conflict, before both sides have serious grievances, it is possible for conflict to be averted by mutually friendly third parties. In many cases, such intramural conflicts between people who ought to be friends and allies is particularly lamentable because it weakens their ability to resist or overcome even more dangerous foes with whom one has serious differences of worldview that are impossible to compromise and that make peace impossible as well.
It is a deep curse to know what is so deeply wrong and not be able to do anything about it. I cannot make other people more aware that I am not a raging angerholic looking for enemies, though I am a biting and sarcastic person with a very ironic and dry sense of humor. I am a person who generally is sympathetic to others, and somewhat understanding of where they are coming from, but I am not someone who is warm and free with my heart. I keep a deep emotional distance from other people, especially family members, and I trust very slowly, very incompletely, and very rarely. Suspicion makes conflicts easier to reach, since a lack of trust about the motives and character of others does tend to make it difficult to build deep and trusting relationships. And as a fierce fighter once I am in a conflict I am usually looking to drive off the threatening hordes of enemies or destroy them from the face of the earth, and that is not a conducive mentality for making peace. On the other hand, it is not hard to maintain peace wth me if one wants to. One simply has to avoid attacking, avoid nagging, avoid criticizing, and be a good (and patient) listener. Such things are not difficult to manage if you want to. But how many want to? That is, I suppose, the $64,000 question.