Monday, June 06, 2005

when nobody does anything wrong.

I ran into something that quite took me by surprise the other day.
I did something wrong. I did something I shouldn't have done. I took my axe and chopped down somebody else’s tree on somebody else’s property. I wasn’t supposed to do that, especially without asking the owner.
Now why would I do such a thing? Certainly there were many perfectly good reasons for which I could excuse myself the blame. Such as, the tree was once a weed in a fence line and then became a tree that was now pushing the fence over. Or I was doing my citizen’s duty and helping the property owner, which is the city, maintain its property. Regardless, somebody saw me chopping down a tree and mentioned, in front of the wrong person, that he could come help me with his chain saw and I was left holding the axe, in a manner of speaking. There was a flurry of e-mails about protocol and tree chopping (I am a tree hugger…really! I do love trees.) and who’s property it was and how the PED and urban forestry and the City of St. Paul needed to come out and look at this tree/weed the size of my forearm.
Okay now I’m beginning to excuse myself again in those little side comments. However, I’m still holding the axe and I did what I shouldn’t have done. But here is what I’m surprised by. I couldn’t believe the tone in an e-mail I got from that “wrong person” person who was all about protocol etc. I had said I was sorry and I apologized profusely. I also told her why I did it, but made sure I apologized in humility. In her response to me she seemed almost embarrassed. And she said, and I quote, “nobody did anything wrong…let’s all just forget about it.” Maybe she was embarrassed because she looked like the bad cop but a contributing factor is the “nobody did anything wrong” thing.
Why, I think I have landed on some words I could use as manipulation in the future, if I should choose to sink to that level of interpersonal relationship. I could say, “I’m sorry,” in feigned humility, causing the other party to feel embarrassed because those very words suggest he/she has accused me of wrongdoing. Now, this person must certainly be a bit more leftist and have a “there is no such thing as sin” worldview. However, since I have made a commitment to not participate in such manipulation, I won’t! BUT I find the dynamic, surprising! odd! interesting! and somewhat delightful. It’s also a little sad because a person of this worldview can’t repent and be forgiven of anything. One must instead alleviate guilt by being very good and by rationalizing everything they do which they are not proud of. Then you have to find a place for the Hitlers and try to figure out the lines between the sort-of-bad and the really-bad other. I’ve even seen Christians, try to live like that.
On the other side of manipulation, in genuine sincerity…I believe I’ve seen a little picture of how meekness wins. Certainly, I would have never perceived it had I not been abraded upon by my “heathen neighbors”. But I can just imagine my Amish relatives in a situation as such—there is nobody in the world as humble and ready to say sorry as some of those I find in the Amish-Mennonite circles (mind you, there are also the arrogant and proud). But what a picture of how meekness inherits the earth. And I guess I have inherited that tree/weed, not in meekness but with my axe.

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