Pride and resentment: the unseen cancer

A grateful heart is a beginning of greatness. It is an expression of humility. It is a foundation for the development of such virtues as prayer, faith, courage, contentment, happiness, love, and well-being. James E. Faust

Although I may not outwardly appear so as much as I should, I am deeply grateful for my loving wife, who has stood beside me for thirty years, through the good, the bad and the really ugly.

I am grateful for our three children, who grew up to make us very proud. Their success was not in becoming financially stable, all three of them struggle, but in their character, the moral compass each developed on their own and their empathy for others. They each developed character traits that would even make a curmudgeon like Mark Twain proud.

I am grateful for the many wonderful people I had the pleasure of meeting. While there are many I would turn my back on, there are many, including a few here, that I would be happy to call friend.

But I am not grateful to certain things that in reflection, I ought to be. I should be grateful to the two individuals who brought me into this world. For too long I’ve held resentment for how my siblings and I were treated by them, for bringing ten children into a loveless and abusive environment.

I supposed the resentment has been like a cancer spreading. It’s there, but unseen, yet doing damage nonetheless. By the time the damage is seen it’s usually too late. They are both gone now, the last one just a few weeks ago. I need to let go of the resentment, and be grateful for the fact they did bring me, and the others, into this world and did make an effort, no matter how small.

But I’m not as humble as I should be. I used to think I was much smarter than many others. When I made the decision at Citigroup to blow the whistle, I leaned on my pride. Let them retaliate, I’m much smarter than they are and will do just well, I reasoned.

I little bit of humility would have gone a long way. It turned out they really are much smarter than I am and proved it. I still stand behind my decision, but I would have taken better measures to make sure I didn’t lose everything if not for my swollen sense of self.

It is amazing how humble one gets when seeing a zero balance in your bank balance and nothing in sight to change it. That is what I saw a few hours ago, and it’s beyond humbling, it opens your eyes to reality: I am nowhere near as smart or as capable as almost everyone else I’ve met.

Some resentment is still there. I still blame others at Citigroup for making it impossible for me to find a job and for putting me into this position.

Understanding comes slow, but it is coming: They did not do this to me, I did this to myself. They are who they’ve always been and I’m the one who made the choice to speak out. I could have walked away, but that would have caused regrets later on and is not the behavior I wanted my children to follow. So I need to take responsibility for what happened.

My wife sent me this quote because she still sees signs of pride and resentment. She is the doctor who saw my cancer. This quote is her prescription for curing me, and it is working.

Some of you already know, but Omar Kiam is my pen name. I did it because I published two business books under my real name and wanted to keep this side of me separate from that side. I had thought the books (The art of process improvement and The command center handbook) would carry us through the difficult times, but that didn’t happen.

As a step in the right direction, I will reach out for help, accepting the fact that I’m really not as smart or as capable as I thought I was.

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Friendship

“Misfortune shows those who are not really friends.” Aristotle

I’ve been a loner most of my life. Up until the end of high school I had several friends, all from the neighborhood, but no close friends. After high school we each went our separate ways, never seeing or hearing from each other again.

For the next twenty years I’ve had friends here and there. These were acquaintances that became friends who enjoyed each others company. As before, we parted ways never to talk again.

The next fifteen years were different. We settled down in one place and I formed several close friendships with two people at work. They became more like sons to me rather than just friends.

On the home front new friendships developed that seemed to last the test of time. It helped that we didn’t move away. The friendships, which began as family as a result of our marriage, grew and for once I began to experience a feeling I never had before towards others: a warmth that develops when friends are there.

We had many a barbeque at the house, entertaining almost every week. These were good friends who stood by us. In fact they counted on us. When one needed to renovate part of his house I gladly answered the call for help. As we prospered, so did our friendships. It is something that everyone needs to experience in order to truly appreciate life.

No matter who called, we were always there to help anyone in need. When a friend’s car died, I was there with tools to get it going again even though it meant missing some important meetings. When a baby was born, we were there from the time they went into the hospital until the baby was born and everyone was safe and sound. When someone needed company, and a car, for a four hour car ride we were there.

During that time we never really needed anything from our family and friends. When I was admitted to the hospital for chest pain, I understood that a 90 minute drive was too much for anyone to make and the three days in the hospital went by quickly enough. When I was held in jail overnight for an outstanding traffic violation warrant that I knew nothing about, I understood when no one was able to bring bail money on a Sunday night, since they all had work the next day.

When I got laid off from work after 28 years, they were all there with words of advice. As the unemployment continued, their visits began to lessen. They’d call and give us words of sympathy but that was about it. When our son needed help fixing his house, no one answered the call for help. No one even showed up to his home coming celebration. As our situation got worse, the friends became scarcer and scarcer, not even making an attempt at false sincerity.

So now as I sit here, a month away from giving up this house we made our home of 15 years to the bank, I’ve come to realize they were never really friends. Oh they were good friends when I could do things for them, but when I had nothing to offer and needed their help, they were nowhere to be found. It hurt my wife even more because they are her family.

I know we’ll survive this, that I’ll find another job eventually, but in a way I’m glad this happened. Its made us realize who our friends really are. It’s made us realize that we have each other, and our children, to count on and that’s about it.  

It’s made us realize that misfortune really does show those who are not really friends.

Never abandon your family

“Let us make one point, that we meet each other with a smile, when it is difficult to smile. Smile at each other, make time for each other in your family.”  Mother Teresa

When everyone else passes you by, when no one else will lift a finger to help you, when you have nowhere else to turn, when it seems that the entire world has given up on you, it is someone from your family who ultimately comes through.

Many family members never see eye to eye. They fight and argue constantly, growling at each other when face to face. That is a fact of life. Family members will always disagree and fight. However, come hell or high water, somewhere deep down there is a longing and a love for other family which can never be replaced by anyone else.

Family members should never stay angry at each other for extended periods of time. Let the rest of the world abandon you, but never abandon family.

There are some things you need to do if you and a close family member are angry with each other. Sit down and talk face to face. Tell the other why you’re angry. Show them the respect and love that can only come from family. And then do something you may not have done before. Sit and listen. Let them tell you what is on their mind. Listen with an open mind, without judging. Wait until they finish before coming to any conclusions. Don’t pre-judge.

The next thing to do is to see things from their perspective. They may appear one way from your point of view, but look at things from the other’s point of view. Put yourself in their shoes. Would you have done the same thing, or acted the same way?

The last thing to do is to smile. No matter what’s happening to the outside world, no matter how much you disagree, you’re still family and deep down that means everything. When you smile, especially in the middle of a tense moment, you’re telling the others that nothing comes between you and family. You’re telling them no matter how hard headed they are, or how stubborn you are, you still love them.

When you smile at a family member, you’re telling them everything’s alright. You’re telling them there is still hope for us. You’re telling them “I’m here for you”.