By Richard E. Bleil, Ph.D.
Jim Croce wrote, “I’ve overcome the blow, I’ve learned to take it well. I only wish my words could just convince myself.” The song is “Operator”, and he was discussing being betrayed by his love.
The problem with betrayal is that I’m not sure that you can ever really overcome it. There are many forms of betrayal. I was betrayed by my wife just as happened in the song, but I’ve also been betrayed by many people throughout my career. I’ve been betrayed by students and employees who reported to me in efforts to have me fired, bosses and administrators above me who did so for seemingly personal reasons.
I’ll not go into the details, and frankly, if I did, you should not believe me since you would only be hearing the stories from my perspective. But suffice it to say, that these incidents have left their scars, large and small, deep and shallow. Each scar haunts me, makes me rethink my choices, and the way I live my life.
I guess it’s human nature to second guess things in your past, but sadly, the exercise is futile. Sometimes reparations can be made, such as by apologizing or making some other form of attempt to correct mistakes, but my mind won’t seem to let anything go. My regrets date back to elementary school, involving people with whom I’ve lost contact. What’s more, at least as many of the things on which I dwell are those done to me, rather than errors that I’ve made.
I know I’m not an easy person to like. Don’t get me wrong. I try to be nice. I perform random acts of kindness, I always say “please” and “thank you”, and I’m forever trying to put other people and their needs above my own. But, these things can work against you.
For example, in my last position, I worked hard to walk throughout the campus, meet people, and make connections. I tried to do so on a daily basis, and with everybody on campus, from the president to those in charge of cleaning the campus and buildings. What’s more, I understand that there is no distinction between these positions. A campus that is not cleaned will very quickly collapse, more quickly, in fact, than one without a president. When a mid-level manager (Dean) makes and effort to connect in this fashion it can make those in higher management nervous. It could look as if I am somehow trying to vie for their position, which I never was, or if they don’t do the same, it just makes them look bad. This was never my intention, but it’s difficult for insecure people to believe this, and if they are in a position of power, they have the authority to strike back if they feel they are being threatened.
So, in the new year, I have a lot to think about. The way I have lived my life has been based on ideal concepts of honor, truth, and kindness. I’m not saying that I am ideal because that would be impossible, but this does set high standards for how I live my life. Unfortunately, these standards seem to have made me a target, and I have to admit, I’m old, and I’m tired. My way of living has made me homeless, jobless, and very lonely. Many times I have faced the decision of blending in and doing what most other people would do, or to be true to myself, and do what I felt was right, or, at least, right for me. I don’t make resolutions simply because if there is something that I feel needs to change, I don’t like waiting for a new year to act on it. My question is whether or not I have enough remaining courage to live up to my standards again, should such an opportunity arise again.