In anticipation of an upcoming Ethical Dilemma, I was striving to prepare myself for a choice I might have to make. I wanted to make the choice that gave an accurate impression of who I am; and who I am is someone who wants to be ethical, evolved, yet not at all a oilpan for the machinations of the morally corrupt.
Here’s the situation: I lived in a small town, where all your actions can affect how you are viewed, your ability to function in that town, or do business, or simply exist in harmony; and that view can be reflected back to you with dizzying speed. I was to be involved in a public event, and worried that I might cross paths with a particular person, whom I’ll call the Big Eraser.
This person lived in my home, used my things, brought no belongings, and in fact had none–only a white garbage sack of items…not due to youth (this person is pushing 40), and not due to an inability to be self-supporting. I had been loving, generous and supportive to B.E., and what I got in return was sloth, abuse, lies, deceit and eventual admissions of hatred after I removed B.E. from my home. This person had treated me with disregard, cost me money, frustration and stress, and managed to get away with it for various reasons. I learned some important lessons–I believe that everyone with whom we cross paths can be seen as a teacher. We don’t have to like them for that to be true.
So, this was a small town, as I mentioned, and I was set up to provide a service, and fully expected B.E. to attend this public event, and that it might necessarily put me in a position to provide this service to B.E., should that request be made. It’s important to note that this service is Therapeutic Touch Treatments, and therefore requires me to impart love and healing–the last thing I feel I am capable of giving to this person.
My response to this hypothetically anticipated request will also be rather public, and while I didn’t want to seem hostile, I also didn’t want to appear a doormat, nor did I wish to impart “reward” or seem to condone or approve of B.E., only for the sake of social graces. I was not disingenuous enough to pretend I had affection for this person. Add to this, the fact that B.E. has repeatedly avoided karmic debt, and it irks me that B.E. has been able to charm around and over everyone until they personally experience the truth of who B.E. really is. This is a person who was a self-confessed former drug dealer/maker, who damaged or perhaps was responsible for the deaths of an unknown number of people–maybe even kids–and had the unmitigated gall to brag about it.
This is a person who has lied to others (including myself, initially) about burn scars, stating that they were received in some heroic gesture, when really the burns were received in a drug lab fire while cooking Methamphetamine. Yet B.E. had managed to snow everyone else, and also land a great job that paid well and offered security–this, with a criminal past, with a history of dodging taxes, and without a GED or High School Diploma. So in regard to my response to B.E. in this scenario, I have a generalized angst attached, i.e., “Why do good things happen to bad people?” These are examples of possible skewing of perception, as well as Internal Noise.
Now, an argument can be made that The Wheel of Karma spins on its own, and does not require that we manually turn it. If a karmic debt is due, it will be paid, one way or another, and it is the most healthy thing for me to keep my hands off that wheel. I remind myself of this frequently, when I have to deal with people like B.E.
Back to the Public Event in which I might cross paths with this person: Should B.E. approach my area and say, “I’d like a treatment,” my response is crucial for many reasons. In my mind, I had conjured possible responses to such a request (testing hypothesis):
“F*** you.” (anger)
“Are you out of your mind? Get out of my face, Loser.” (anger + judgment)
(suggested by my best friend:) “I would love to give you a treatment…but for you, it will cost $700, because that’s one of the debts you left for me.” (sarcasm + bitterness)
“It’s not a good idea for me to have my hands that close to your neck.” (sarcasm + veiled threat)
“I don’t think that would be a good idea.” (avoidance + statement of fact)
“Sorry, I’m on a break.” (avoidance + a lie + non-confrontation))
“Let me think about that for a while.” (avoidance + stall + nonconfrontation)
It is important to me that I make choices rooted in an evolved mind…my more primitive side wants to lash out. My intellectual side wants to take a firm stance and my spiritual side wants to put only loving things into my environment and those around me, because that’s what I want to get back. I am a great fan of having all those parts of myself satisfied, yet I suspect this isn’t possible. I have to choose.
If I choose the “High Road” and say, “Sure, sit right down here and let me give you some love and healing.” Then I feel I have chumped myself, compromised my integrity, become spineless, have condoned reprehensible choices, and somehow validated B.E.’s evil ways. Why would I want to assist someone in their misbehavior? If I allow myself to become angry, I’m ultimately just hurting myself with stress, and giving B.E. power I don’t wish B.E. to have. If I avoid B.E. and the situation, I feel cowardly, yet B.E. will probably order another beer and wander off, and I won’t have to deal with it further…
Of course, this scenario might never unfold, but I don’t feel my consideration and energy is moot; I still need to understand how to deal with it, and I still need to ask myself these types of questions.
Since B.E. never appeared at the event, my angst and ethical hand-wringing became a moot point. I still don’t know the answers to these questions. I never got the chance to act on the decision, even though I was relatively sure what my decision would be.
If I had to say how I might handle it now (and how I would have handled it then, had I gotten the chance) I would say that I would have chosen the last response: “Let me think about that for a while.” This non-confrontational approach avoids conflict, defuses the situation, and also doesn’t feel like it costs me any of my own integrity. I had an idea of expected behavior in that my choice of responses would have caused B.E. to wander off, without any provocation. It’s quite possible that I would have been met with unexpected behavior, in that B.E. could have continued to engage me in a confrontational way, rather than to wander off.
Either way, in order to create a list of responses, I had to understand my own mental models, and making the list alone was enough to inform me of my own place in this ethical dilemma, and it forced me to consider the type of person I wanted to be.