Character — Be One and Have One

Some of my family and quite a few of my friends are real characters. They are unique – one of a kind, human gems. Some make you laugh or roll your eyes; a few tell very highly embroidered tall tales. They embellish the events du jour because they can and perhaps because they always have an audience. I guess I gravitate toward characters. I gravitate toward people who aren’t boringly predictable or, perhaps, who are predictable in outrageous or outlandish ways.

But in addition to those kinds of characters, I was taught that it is helpful to have character. To be the kind of person who tells the truth, who shows up when you’ve said you’ll show up, who takes time to take the right way rather than the easy way.

Being a person of character holds many benefits. When you tell the truth, you don’t have to try to remember some long, convoluted narrative you thought up to cover your tracks. If you like having people trust you, you need to be the kind of person that others can trust. We aren’t put into this world to figure this out for ourselves – although often-times the school of hard knocks teaches us a few of these lessons. But there are lots of rules and laws and guides for living. Some of them quite old.

The Ten Commandments are in two places in scripture, Exodus 20:1-17 and Deuteronomy 5:6-21.

1) Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.
2) Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord, thy God, in vain.
3) Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.
4) Thou shalt honor thy father and thy mother.
5) Thou shalt not kill.
6) Thou shalt not commit adultery.
7) Thou shalt not steal.
8) Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.
9) Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house.
10) Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his man-servant, nor his maid-servant, nor his cattle, nor anything that is his.

But they are not the only laws given to us. Rules abound. Our lives sometimes feel overrun with them: rules of the road; rules governing localities, county, city, state, nation; laws governing how we are to act regarding others, in public, and private places, respecting the property of others, etc. As a kid, when I watched Perry Mason shows on TV, I watched witnesses called to testify, stand and swear that their testimony was the truth, the whole truth & nothing but the truth.

And then there is life. Several weeks ago, on a Saturday and a Sunday night, I had successive nights with severe chest pain, burning up, difficulty getting my breath, in fact – very frightening. I thought I was having a heart attack. The first thing that Monday morning I went to my Doctor’s office, explained my symptoms to the nurse at the front desk and she told me to get to the Emergency room immediately. I did that and then didn’t get to go home again for two days.

Nursing staff explained that some foods could make matters worse: foods high in fat, spicy foods, etc. But I knew what had triggered my pain – it was my naivete. It was two political run-ins that turned ugly that were my undoing. You think you know someone until you find out that you don’t.

A childhood friend of mine told me recently that friendship and politics don’t mix. That hasn’t been my experience. In my parents’ house, growing up, we often had debates about subjects about which we didn’t all agree. The conversations were always civil, and if you didn’t agree, you were expected to explain why. I have many friends with whom it is quite possible, indeed typical, to have conversations on weighty topics over which we radically disagree with each other without the conversations spiraling down out of control. Our discussions are civil and engaging and not vicious or backstabbing.

After plenty of hospital testing, the cardiologist said that my heart was not the culprit. I didn’t have a heart attack. The pain I was experiencing was telegraphing something else. It turned out that I had to have surgery – which I had a couple of weeks later, on Friday the 19th. I had to have a Cholecystectomy, (koh-luh-sis-TEK-tuh-me), the surgical procedure to remove my gallbladder along with all the nasty little gall stones.

I have learned some painful lessons throughout these days. I learned that I could not deal with some forms of political disagreement. I have had to back away from some people whom I considered friends because I can’t deal with the viciousness, condescension, and personal attack with which they craft their arguments. I thought I knew these people. I was wrong. Two of those who blindsided me were pastors. I assumed that they would treat me with respect as I was treating them with respect. I was disagreeing with their argument but was doing so thoughtfully without venom. I naively believed that people could respectfully disagree as it was possible to do around the dining room table in my parents’ home. There I could hold a differing opinion but was expected to explain why.

So, the takeaway. I can prune social media lists, I can stay away from people I now know seem to find pleasure at kneecapping you – but life is never entirely safe.

Life is short, too short sometimes. It can be exciting, challenging, colorful, rewarding, thoughtful, but it is lived in the company of others.

All I know to do going forward is to try to live the way I was taught to live while being aware of potholes and kneecapping. Now that I no longer have my gallbladder, perhaps I’ll be lighter on my feet and more able to sidestep trouble.

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10 Responses to Character — Be One and Have One

  1. Nancy says:

    Ann-do you think the disagreements caused the gall bladder attack? I’m not sure of the connection between the viciousness of the conversations and your gall bladder.

    I’m glad you will stay away from those people who are causing stress! Despite the hope, it does not sound like there can be a healthy relationship there.

    Love to you!

  2. AECRM says:

    I think there was a connection between stress & the health issues — I need to learn to sidestep the stress. Thanks for your kind words.

  3. LY says:

    Dear Annie-I don’t have a lot of “friends”, but I do have the joy of surrounding myself with people I love and “would
    take a bullet for if they were in harms way”. Therefore, I am very blessed! Politics does get in the way sometimes and when I can’t find common ground, I step away from the irritation. loveLY.

  4. Leslie says:

    God bless you, Ann! Stress can certainly make underlying issues worse, if not cause them outright. Stay away from those people, block them on social media. If it’s someone in your life you otherwise want to see, call a truce and make politics off base.

  5. Cassandra Dudas says:

    Ann, my mother told me, a long time ago, to stay away from politics and religion in conversations, to avoid conflict. It’s almost impossible to stay away from politics at this time, but I believe it’s best to be careful, and not to allow it to escalate, because it will come up. One’s health and happiness is too important. We often learn these things the hard way. Glad you’re on the mend. Stay hopeful.

  6. Kathleen says:

    Dear Ann, take good care and keep being a stand -up kinda gal. Wish you still lived in Columbia.

  7. Carmen says:

    So sorry what you had to go thru. Sometimes life throws you curveballs & there are lessons to be learned. Take care my friend!

  8. Judith says:

    Dear Ann, As a longtime diabetic, I know that stress does cause problems. In this day and age I don’t think it’s possible to avoid conflict. Sometimes people who are acting ugly need to be confronted by a peace loving Christian. Put on the full armor of God, pray continually and consider the fruits of the Spirit. Love, Judy

  9. Lisa Harper says:

    Ann, I worked with someone for many years. In the beginning, I thought we would be really good friends. Something happened (I still don’t know what I did or said & she doesn’t either). There was no way to avoid her as we were in the same office. There were many frustrating times and I said things under my breath, not meaning for others to see my frustrations; however, they did. I apologized for showing my weakness’s. Finally, she came to me (after my daddy passed) and said she was sorry. I told her I had given this to God to handle…this took about 10 years….except for the under the breath comments. I was lucky enough to see & feel God’s blessings. I’m sure you have and will continue to do as you were taught….to act kindly no matter the situation….showing God’s light. Asking our Heavenly Father to help show those that hurt you to be more kind & showing His light. Hopefully this blog will be read by those to help shed light and love to all. Thanks Ann for this blog!

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