By Richard Bleil
Every morning, as I look into the mirror, I realize that I look a little more like my father than I did yesterday. I guess it’s fine; I’ve come to accept it, and I’m told that my father is not a bad-looking man. I just hope I don’t act like my father.
A long time ago, I came to realize that there are several personality traits of my father that, frankly, I didn’t want. I’ve worked hard to keep these traits at bay, and for the most part, I would like to believe that I was successful (it is up to my friends to tell me how successful I have been, or how terribly I have failed). For example, he is very stubborn, has a horrible temper and tends to hold grudges for a very long time.
Stubbornness is a terrible trait, one that we are seeing too much of in today’s society. People have lost the ability to be flexible. They see everything as right or wrong in accordance, of course, with their sense. It’s why we have an ever growing political divide, rather than seeing compromise and healthy debate. In the end, flexibility is stronger than rigidity. We see it often, where the willow can survive a windstorm that would break the mighty Oak because of the ability of the willow to bend.
A temper is, in my humble opinion, the root of abuse. I’ve never been physically abused, but I am convinced that one of the roots of my depression was my fear of making any noise at all, which would set my father off. It created an atmosphere of emotional abuse, where I lived in fear of doing anything wrong.
Holding grudges is pointless. Remembering to be angry at somebody just eats away at your soul and very rarely (if ever) yields any form of satisfaction or justice. I have a hard enough time remembering what I had for breakfast, so how long should my grudge list be?
I’ve worked hard to be flexible in my opinion. This is perhaps not so easy because I happen to have very old-fashioned opinions, but I have worked hard to be open to dissenting opinions and to be accepting of people who do things differently than I do. My sense of temper does show up, but typically it takes a lot to set it off, and when it does blow I try to direct it away from people. I do that “man thing” of burying my anger deep inside so it will yield a good old-fashioned healthy heart attack. And grudges, well, I do have a hard time letting go of some things, like with my so-called “beloved” ex-wife. But, if I come across somebody that has hurt me badly, I can still hold it together and at least be civil.
Some time after I realized that there are some traits I should avoid, I came to realize two things. First, I may be able to keep these traits more or less in check, but I can never get rid of them. I grew up learning these traits from the first day I was brought home from the hospital (apparently five days after I was born since I was very small). There’s just nothing that I can do about it; these undesirable traits are part of who I am, but by being aware of them, I can at least control them, at least for the most part. Second, I’ve come to realize that not only can I control them, but I can use them.
See, these traits are terrible if they are left unchecked. However, with proper control, they can actually be, in the proper circumstances, they are quite useful. When my boss was behaving unethically, it was my stubborn adherence to what I believe to be the right thing to do that told me that the right thing to do was to stand up to him. I may have been fired for it, but I’m proud to say that I was fired for doing the right thing, for trying to protect the other people there, and in attempting to protect the institution.
It was my father’s temper that I called forth to keep me courageous as i stood up for what was right. My supervisor looked much like my father in his facial features, and he was also a large and very strong (physically) individual. He has made it very clear that I has no problem with physical violence, so when I felt like he was getting angry with me, and when I felt the proper move was to mirror that anger so he knew that I would not allow him to take it too far, I could do so. There’s an old saying, it’s not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog. I felt physically threatened, and I knew how to let him know that I would not put up with it. No doubt, had it come to physical violence I would have lost, but I’m equally sure he would know he was in a fight.
For grudges, I know that I would never want to interact with him again. If I met him in public, I’m sure I would shoot him a quick “hi”, but I also would have no problem walking away. Many people have hurt me, but they’ve only hurt me once because I remember.
So, yes, there are traits I have recognized, and consciously decided to avoid, but at the same time, since I know I have them, I also have recognized situations where I can bring them out as well. Since they will always be with me, I will always struggle to keep them in check, but I can also use them like I would any tool in my collection.