On Grace, Innocence, Hypocrisy, and Friendship

Several years ago, I worked for a business school as a career counselor. My job, essentially, was to work with the students in their last six weeks at the school to place them in internships and then help them get their resumes ready, as well as setting up mock and real job interviews for them, and to basically help them land a job in their career. The job entailed everything from how to speak, answer questions, and what to wear all the way to how to fill out job applications, write a resume, and set up interview appointments.

It was an awesome job. I loved my students. I loved the employers I worked with to help students get jobs. I loved my office. I pretty much loved everything about that job, except the other employees. The director of the school, who shall remain nameless to protect the guilty and otherwise foolish, had made a habit of hiring only large-breasted, young, perky things who had recently graduated from the school. That he was having affairs with some of them was a common rumor whispered amongst the hallways, but not ever confirmed. I was one of the few people he had hired from outside of the graduates, since my job required experience and education that someone just graduating from a business school would not have had.

For the records clerk, receptionist, bookstore clerk, and financial aid clerk, though, he hired all graduates from the school. They were young, inexperienced, and it was a first professional job for all of them. Unfortunately, they did not get along with each other at all. Very competitive. And worse, three of them were recent graduates, so some of the students who attended the school had been peers to them before they took the jobs, so there were ‘factions’ that sided with certain employees and a lot of gossip. It was bad enough we were all called into a meeting where the boss told us to knock it off or the next person got fired. I hadn’t bought into any of it, and mostly kept to myself, but I’ll admit it was a hostile workplace.

I won’t get into the details of how this all started, but I’ll jump forward to about eight months after I started working there, when an employee called me at home on a weekend and asked me some non-work related stuff.

On Monday, I get called into the director’s office and he has some papers on his desk and the assistant director in a chair beside his desk. He says something about how I had shared information about another employee, and he said he was going to terminate the next person who did that, so he was firing me. He slid the termination papers over to me for me to sign.

GRACE

You know how sometimes you think of the exactly right thing to say just a little too late? You know how you always kick yourself afterward, wishing you had said it at the right time? Well, for once in my life, I said the right thing at the right time–both in this meeting with him and another I would have the following day. I leaned back in the chair and said, “Well, seems like someone else told you hearsay about something that was alleged to have happened, and you took their word for it. It would have been nice if you had asked me my side of the story before you wrongfully terminated me. I guess I’ll go ahead and sign this, and then I’ll need a copy to take with me to my attorney, who will probably be more interested in my side of this wrongful termination story than you were.”

The director paused and then reached to take the paper from my hand. He walked out of the room and asked the assistant director to come with him. I could hear them whispering outside the office door. A few seconds later, with me grinning, he walked back into the office, alone.

He started with, “You’re right. I didn’t give you a chance to explain. I’m willing to listen to your side of the story now.”

I laughed, sort of a wry little chuckle, and said, “No, I don’t think I want to tell you that just now. I need some time to think about things.”

He sort of knew I had him backed against a wall, so he agreed to let me go home and think about it and he asked me to come in the next day at ten in the morning to talk to him. I agreed, and went home. Once there, I called both my boss from another city and his boss from another city, and told them both what had happened and asked them both not to say anything until I spoke with him the next day.

I purposely did not show up until 10:30. It’s  a cheap power play, but it made its point: I come on my terms, not yours.

First, I walked into the office and he closed the door. I sat in the chair, leaned back casually, and rocked back and forth. I took a long time to let the tension build up and I said to him that I’d thought a lot about what had taken place the previous day and that I’d come to the decision that, while I loved my job, I did not want to work for him any longer. He stayed calm at first. Then I handed him my typed resignation letter, which I had already, as indicated in the letter, faxed to his boss.

Lastly, before I left his office to go to mine to collect my things, he asked me what had really been said during that phone call. I told him, “If I told you that, then, by the fact you tried to terminate me, you would have to terminate not one employee, but two employees, and I quit, leaving you with three people short on your staff. I won’t do that to them and I won’t do that to the students. If you have a problem in your school, I suggest you figure it out on your own.”

I stood, held my head high and walked out the door. He picked up one of the side chairs and throw it as I walked out the door. I went straight to my office and packed my things. On the way out, one of the older staff members, one who is usually outside of the office, said to me, “You handled yourself with such grace today.”

I broke down into tears at that moment and I hugged her and then cried all the way home. I had just lost a job I loved, on principal. Sometimes standing on principal sucks.

But I think that’s what Grace really is. It’s not handling yourself well when things are going good, but handling yourself and the world around you well when things are going bad.

I’ve received a lot of compliments in my life for various things, but for some reason, that one comment has stuck out to me stronger than the rest over the years.

I handled myself with grace.

GRACE & INNOCENCE

~~When he stood in our bedroom and looked me in the eyes and told me there was someone else, I handled myself with grace. I even helped him pack and wished him well. I was rewarded by finding someone who was infinitely better for me.

~~When that next man stood before me and told me there was someone else, two days before Christmas, I cried, but I stood before him with tears in my eyes and wished him well. Then, months later, when he called me in the middle of the night, drunk, alone, stranded on the side of the road, I was the one who came and picked him up, took him home, sobered him up and helped him get his car, even though he went right back to the women who had stranded him.

~~When I’ve seen people bashing me online, reading nasty articles and blogs about me, I have handled myself with grace. I haven’t always been rewarded for that, but at least I can look myself in the mirror and be proud of who I am. They might not be able to say the same thing.

~~When the principal of my son’s school stood up and got in my face and treated me like a child, calling me names and yelling at me, I stayed calm and was professional to him. I did what it took to protect my son. I handled myself with grace, and in return, I got my son back–the person he was before they tried to change him.

I try so hard to be a good person, to help where I can, to do what I’m compelled to do, by my heart.

FRIENDSHIP

But now…

There comes a situation in my life in which I am trying to have grace, and I find I cannot find it in me to stand tall and proud and sure. I can take what comes my way. I’m stronger than I ever believed I could be. For myself.

But when *I* am the cause of someone else’s pain, even when it’s peripherally and I am not to blame for it, it’s hard to handle that gracefully. No-win situations are not my forte. I don’t hold grudges. I do the good I do in private, but the bad stuff always makes its way into public, even if the public is just the eyes of one person.

INNOCENCE

I’m rather childlike sometimes. Seriously. I can sit outside and watch the birds flying and find simple joy in that, like a young child who has never before seen a bird. I love to watch it rain outside and will jump up and down by the window when a storm rolls through. I giggle… a lot. I like to play with my puppy and roll around on the bed with him, even though he’s 80 pounds. And I still wrestle with my son, when my body lets me. Pretty things make me go ohhhhhh, ahhhhh. Bubble blowers are the best.

I believe there is good in every single human being. Sometimes, we just have to look harder to find it. I never judge someone based on just one piece of evidence, and I never judge anyone on what someone else has told me about them. Everyone gets a fair shot to make an impression on me, all on their own.

I’m innocent. Sometimes too much so.

But I’m also jaded. I have been beaten and bruised. I have been homeless and hungry. I have been cheated on, pushed around, walked on, walked over, and broken. I have trusted when I shouldn’t have and not trusted when I should have. People have fooled me, used me, taken advantage of me. I have been wrong about things more times than I can count.

But I’ve been right about things too, and sometimes, about people.

FRIENDSHIP

My best friend is one of the most amazing people I’ve ever met. She knows me in a way that most people just don’t and never will. She sees a part of me that I keep hidden from the internet, the rest of the world. She and I are so much alike in so many ways, I feel like I’ve met my twin sister, even if she is a bit older than me and tons more adorable than I am.

My family loves her, both my immediate family and my extended family. My dog loves her. I love her. If I had one wish for everyone in the world, it would be that every person find a friend for themselves like she is to me. I hope I have been one to her in return.

Unfortunately, her family doesn’t love me. And while this alone hurts me, I know it is her heart that hurts the most.

How do you have grace when someone you love is hurting? How can you be graceful when you are hurting for them and for yourself too?

In the end, I’ll do the ‘right’ thing, because that’s who I am; that’s what I do. But how do you know what the right thing is? That’s the hard part.

Being graceful isn’t about being walked over. It’s about doing the right thing when the right thing is hard to do. It’s about holding your head high, not with pride, but with conviction and self-assurance, knowing you have nothing to be ashamed of, nothing of which you can be convicted.

The dictionary definition of grace is:

  • elegance and beauty of expression;
  • seemliness: a sense of propriety and consideration for others;
  • a disposition to kindness and compassion.

I hope I have grace. If I don’t, I know I strive for it in everything I do. I fail much of the time, but I’d like to think I succeed at least as often.

HYPOCRISY

Bill Joel once wrote in “Only The Good Die Young“, “She never cared for me, but did she ever say a prayer for me?”

I think that’s one of the best lines that talks about hypocrisy as any. If you really think someone is doing something wrong, and you are powerless to change it, and what they are doing is hurting you or someone else, do you ever stop for a moment and wonder where that is coming from? Do you ever send them blessings, love, light, energy, or send up prayers in their honor, in their name?

Maybe that’s what I have to do now. I simply need to pray, put it up to the Universe, let God or whomever is in command, do with it what He will. Maybe that’s where I’ll find my grace.

I just don’t believe in no-win situations.

I still believe in the basic human kindness, goodness and love of every human being for and to every human being.

INNOCENCE & FRIENDSHIP

If that makes me naive, or innocent, or even wrong, then so be it. If it makes me a target for someone else’s anger and pain, even when I’m not the cause of it, I can bear that cross for someone I love. Buffy deserves that much and so much more.

I have said it before and I’ll say it again, “When you love a writer, you will get written about…” THIS is my therapy.

Love and stuff,
Michy

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4 comments to On Grace, Innocence, Hypocrisy, and Friendship

  • Buffy  says:

    I love a writer. She is my best friend, the tonic for my soul, and the sunshine in my otherwise drab and clinical existence. I am blessed. She is my family.

    Sometimes, people we love, family members, don’t always love one another. Sometimes, a family member will act like a petulant child, jealous and controlling. It is in those times that having other family members who are graceful, loving, understanding, and supportive is the greatest blessing. And sometimes, those strong souls can help in doling out tough love to bring the wayward children back home, literally or figuratively.

    I am a mirror – it’s worked that way all my life. I am still, right now, a mirror – just for another person whom I love, too.

  • Elizabeth Grace  says:

    I am in the midst of reading The Gentle Art of Blessing, by Pierre Pradervand. Its message is simple. Purposefully, mindfully, regularly offer blessings for those around you–most especially those who cause you pain–and you will transform your life.

    I have always done just that, to a degree. When someone is mean or spiteful, I assume that they are hurting and wish them ease. While I’ve always tried to live this way, I haven’t always succeeded. My inner bitch is alive and well, though I try not to let her define me.

    A friend of mine wrote me a letter about a month ago. She’s been through a great and often difficult transformation over the past few years and has emerged better and stronger. Her intention during this time was simply to live her truth, but in the process, she caused pain for some of the people dearest to her heart. Her sorrow over their hurt is palpable and she has and continues to do what she can to make amends. This woman embodies grace in action.

    One line from her letter really spoke to me. She said, “We are all just people in need of grace and compassion.” I reread it. I closed my eyes, repeated it, and felt its truth.

    We are all just people in need of grace and compassion.

    You are a graceful and compassionate woman, Michy. I hope that you continue to trust that inner voice and follow where it leads you. No matter what might be swirling around you, remember that IT is not you.

    Friends who are a part of our very souls are one of life’s sweetest rewards. Buffy is blessed to have you, and from reading the comment above, I see that you are equally blessed.

    Beth

  • Michaela Piggott  says:

    The nice thing about egotists is that they don’t talk about other people. Lucille S. Harper-

  • Olin Harriston  says:

    I’d like to say thanks for the efforts you have made in writing this post. You have been an inspiration for me. I’ve forwarded this to a friend of mine.

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