Thursday, October 8, 2009

“Took It Personally?” – Never Despise Evil... However Small

I was recently criticised for taking personally the late-submitted, possibly almost forgotten, plans for an important project—I felt it was a lack of regard for my area and a lack of foresight generally. Not only was I inconvenienced, but the lack of planning meant risks would need to be taken in the execution of the project that otherwise needn’t have been. But, the truth was, I had taken it personally.

What do we do with the unnecessary business of taking things personally?

The 17th Century Jesuit Priest, Balthasar Gracian, a tremendous time-enduring sage says:

“Never despise evil, however small... for they never come alone: they are linked together like pieces of good fortune. Fortune and misfortune generally go to find their fellows. Hence all avoid the unlucky and associate with the fortunate.”

In my situation, the evil was a plan that was errant and a seemingly uncaring steward. Yet, as I read that into the situation it only made matters worse, for me and for others also. It was an undignified thing to call undue attention to the faux pas. And as I did, all my would-be supporters fled to higher ground—as do all—according to the sage’s observation.

Another thing I did which did turn out well was I spent time with the person managing this project and they were actually very repentant. They showed the sort of response that indicated they’d learned a valuable lesson. Grace dictates that such a person be given a chance—yet, as history reflects, I still made the molehill into a mountain. No wonder I didn’t feel good about the action later on.

The action I took represented the worry of wanting to fix this aberration overnight. Two problems came with this thinking. 1. Nothing’s ever fixed overnight. 2. The faux pas was an aberration. The system (for the larger part) worked.

The sage continues:

“Do not wake Misfortune when she sleeps... just as no happiness is perfect, so no ill-luck is complete. Patience serves with what comes from above; prudence with that from below.”

Later as I reflected, I was annoyed to have fallen for becoming even the slightest bit emotional about the above issue. It was such a trivial event in the overall scheme of things. Little things—and by far the majority of issues in life are ‘little things’—threaten quietly when trivialised; when scratched, they can quickly become festered. These can then conspire to take focus from where it should logically be placed. We begin to ‘sweat the small stuff.’

Gracian is saying that we must be prudent (careful and considered) regarding the sleeping misfortune. We let sleeping dogs lie if we can. We don’t call inordinate attention to the fault; we quietly and gracefully ensure it is noted and then we move on.

© S. J. Wickham, 2009.

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