"Even my own familiar friend, in whom I trusted (relied on and was confident), who ate of my bread, has lifted up his heel against me."
~ Psalm 41:9
Blindsided: 1. attack from blind side: to take somebody unawares suddenly, with detrimental results; 2. attack when vulnerable: to attack somebody suddenly and physically by hitting the person on a side where his or her peripheral vision is obstructed.
Have you ever felt blindsided? If you’re a member of the human race, my guess is that you have. This past week I was blindsided by a longtime friend, so I’ve decided to make it the topic of my column.
My first experience with being blindsided came at the hands of my fifth grade teacher who pointed her finger in my face and said, “You think you’re the cat’s meow!” Well, I was only ten years old, so I didn’t know exactly what that meant, but I was pretty sure it wasn’t a compliment. Then two years later a teacher became so angry at me for interrupting him during a meeting that he composed a one-page diatribe about me and told me to write it out fifty times. The opening line of nearly every sentence was: “Cute, funny, Eileen, thinks she is so cute and funny. . . .” Well, I didn’t feel either cute or funny after that. In fact, the experience caused serious damage to my self-esteem.
Many years ago I was blindsided by an individual who stopped me on the street and blasted me for a column Keen had written in the newspaper. Let me tell you – this guy was ticked – with a capital “T.” I remained calm but his anger became personal. “I’m just sorry you find it so hard to believe that everyone doesn’t agree with your husband!” he snapped. I explained that I didn’t have any trouble believing that everyone didn’t agree with my husband since he had just lost another election for county commissioner.
Another time when we were at an outdoor social gathering at the home of someone we thought was our friend, I was stunned to hear him tell one of our sons to make sure he didn’t grow up to be like his father. My stepmother, who was visiting at the time, immediately retorted, “He should be so lucky to grow up to be like his father!”
One time we were blindsided by a neighbor who was angered by the election sign we had displayed in our yard for a senatorial candidate. She went on and on about how she couldn’t even pull in her driveway or look out her bedroom window anymore because she would have to view the sign. She even went so far as to say that she couldn’t sleep!
After listening to her rant and rave for several minutes, I replied, “But it’s our yard.” Then Keen suggested that she show support for the candidate of her choice by displaying her own sign. Well, the neighbor grew furious and stomped off, shaking her fist in the air. According to her definition of a good neighbor, we should acquiesce and remove the sign. (Actually, that’s exactly what we ended up doing – just to keep the peace.)
Last fall we were blindsided once again at Keen’s swearing in ceremony. You see, there were four people from Wabaunsee County who were sworn in as practicing attorneys on the same day. The mother of one of the students approached Keen at a local football game and said that we should be sure to get a picture of “The Wabaunsee Four.” Silly me, I followed through and made the effort to gather the four new attorneys together for the photograph. But my heart sank when one of the mothers informed me that she was going to submit the photo to the Alma paper and she only wanted it to be the three Wabaunsee High School graduates, because they wanted to promote Wabaunsee High. It felt like someone had punched me in the stomach. There was Keen, happily gathered for the group shot, when I had to tell him that they only wanted the three others in the picture. Then the woman said, “Oh, that’s all right, I already got my picture for the paper.” It was such an awkward moment, and it really put a damper on an otherwise happy occasion.
Some of you may recall reading in a previous column about the woman who sent me a letter about my book project. She stated that God told her I was a “bitter young woman” who had not been able to forgive. Then she wrote: “I’d like to suggest you go to a timber area and dig a big hole and bury that 620 page manuscript in that deep hole and turn to Jesus and ask His forgiveness for yourself and for all the people who hurt you. Then you can begin living as a free person.”
“A writer lives with rejection…A writer needs the sensitivity of a butterfly in touching the outside world – and the skin of a rhino to withstand its disregard.” ~ Sophy Burnham, For Writers Only
Since Keen started his new law practice, he has been blindsided several times by the reactions of potential clients to the fact that: 1) he charges the going hourly rate for attorneys; 2) he does not choose to take every case that walks through his door; and 3) he confines his work to regular business hours. For example, when he informed his very first potential client about his fees, the individual responded, “So you think you’re a big shot attorney now and you can charge that much for your time?” I kid you not. Another prospective client accused Keen of becoming “one of the good old boys” after he declined to represent him free of charge. “If being a businessman and having bills to pay makes me one of the good old boys,” Keen replied, “then I guess I’m guilty as charged.” When we were discussing these situations later, Keen said, “If I choose to donate my time, that’s my decision – but I’m not going to have it taken or demanded from me.”
“What I must do is all that concerns me, not what the people think. This rule, equally arduous in actual and intellectual life, may serve for the whole distinction between greatness and meanness. It is the harder, because you will always find those who think they know what is your duty better than you know it. ” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
Lastly, this woman I’ve known and done business with for over fifteen years called my cell phone at 5:30 on a Friday night saying that a friend of hers needed some legal advice “right away.” When I asked her if the woman could call Keen’s office on Monday morning to set up an appointment, she became indignant. I explained that I couldn’t speak for Keen and I didn’t know when he would have an opening. However, I offered to call her friend the following day after I had a chance to talk to him. Once again, she became exasperated. “Put yourself in her shoes,” she pleaded. “This woman has been on pins and needles for several months now, and I just can’t tell her that you’ll get back to her.” I told her that this was the way we chose to operate our business and I would appreciate it if she would respect that. She commented that she would like to have weekends off, too, but when friends call . . . Then she said that she recalled reading something Keen wrote several years ago about how he would “die for justice.” “Quite frankly,” she continued, her words dripping with disdain, “I haven’t found that to be the case at all. In fact, I’ve been very disappointed in Keen because every time that I’ve asked him for [free] help, he’s turned me down!” (When Keen was in law school, she wanted him to drive nine hours, round trip to Liberal, Kansas, to attend a meeting where she was trying to resolve a conflict over a business deal.) Working hard to maintain my composure, I told her that her comments made me very angry. She said, “Well, I’ve kept my opinion in for years now and I’m just telling you how I feel.” I replied, “And I’m just telling you how I feel. For you to say that Keen doesn't care about justice simply because he doesn't jump on the bandwagon of every issue you’re involved in is deeply insulting.”
With friends like that, who needs enemies? I guess I should be thankful that her true colors were revealed. On one hand, I know the Bible tells us to pray for our enemies, and bless those who curse us (Luke 6:26,27) – which I can do and have done. But I don’t think that means you have to continue to have a relationship with someone who inflicts emotional pain on you or harbors ill will towards you. As Maya Angelou says: “When people show you who they are, believe them.” So I will accept the fact that my former friend and I have different views of what friendship is really all about.
"Eat and drink, saith he to thee; but his heart is not with thee." ~Proverbs 23:7b