It was an uncomfortable week at work for me. I recently had to terminate an employee at work because I found him engaging in dishonest activities. Dumped into an impossible financial situation by this economy and some prior bad decisions, he apparently felt desperate enough to turn left instead of right, and in the process got himself caught.
This week was the first time I’ve seen him since the termination and unfortunately, like many people who are in trouble, he has chosen to blame others instead of owning up his own actions. Specifically me. Since I was the one who did the “calling out”, I am now the target of quite a few ugly accusations, none of which are true.
Others at work have heard these accusations and have expressed every kind of emotion from fear, anger, and resentment, and some have even recommended retaliation. But this is where the Al-Anon program steps up in my life and I can see the kind of progress that counts in my recovery.
Sure, I’m angry that he is accusing me of things I never did. And yes, I feel attacked and defensive and even a little hurt. But as I sat across the room from him earlier this week, what I felt was compassion. I saw a man in trouble. Someone who was so desperate in his situation that he felt compelled to compromise his relationships, his employment, and his integrity in an effort to solve his problems. Someone who engaged others in the plan so that he would not be alone. To me, it read just like an alcoholic or addict. As addiction takes over, the blaming begins, and the manipulation of others grows stronger in an effort to get to the next drink. As the disease progresses, the willingness to cross the line in pursuit of that next drink gets easier and easier.
It was all very familiar to me, but because of this program, I was able to respond differently. I was able to set boundaries to protect myself and my company, detach from the personal accusations against me, and yet still look at this man as a frightened human being in trouble.
Someone at the office said to me, “If he was in trouble, he could have risen to the occasion and chosen the high road instead of cheating! He had choices.” I knew from my experience with alcoholism that not everyone makes the right choices when they’re backed up against a wall. Some of us take the “low road”, drink it off, lie to protect our dignity, do the only thing we know works to make us feel better – until it doesn’t work any more. Some of us take the righteous soapbox road when we’re scared, overachieving to prove that we’re worthy, and looking down on others to reinforce our superiority so that hopefully we won’t get kicked to the curb on judgement day. But both are just running from an uncomfortable space we’ve encountered. I know now that neither one is healthy.
I am reminded of something an Al-Anon friend said in a meeting, “Would you rather be right, or would you rather be happy?” As I listened to others trying to rally support for my indignation, that phrase rang through my mind. It doesn’t matter if I’m right. What matters is that I kept my side of the street clean, and did not take pleasure in throwing a scared and desperate human being under the bus. What matters is that I truly felt a peace in my heart when I could think of him with compassion, instead of resentment and anger. And I know that none of that would be possible without the tools of this program.
May you all have a blessed holiday, filled with compassion for all those around you, even the difficult ones who will make mistakes, just like we will…..for that is the gift of serenity we give to ourselves.
photocredit: www.istockphoto.com/10-11-10 @ Alex Slobodkin