"To err is human; to forgive, divine." - Alexander Pope
|Photography by Joseph Osei-Bonsu|
Before he could hang up, he heard a voice speaking inaudibly on the phone. Frantically, he put the phone back to his ear and half-shouted, "Hello?! Antonella?! Are you there?!. "Antonella isn't her!", a stern, feminine voice replied from the phone. "Who is this?", Giovanni responded. "It doesn't matter who I am.", the woman replied. "Well, it does to me! I'm her fiancé! Who are you?", an infuriated Giovanni retorted. "Why do you want to know? Do you want to bed me too?!, was the sharp response of the mysterious woman on the other end of this telephone conversation. Giovanni could feel an indignant rage, pushing him to respond to his latest critic but alas, he was dumbfounded. Giovanni broke the momentary, awkward silence between him and the mystery woman with a sigh. "How can you possibly refer to yourself as her fiancé, after cheating on her with somebimbo you swore meant nothing to you?", queried the mystery woman. Giovanni remained silent. "I'm Antonella's friend, I'm house-sitting for her. I know everything - all the lies you told her. I even read the nasty text messages and emails you sent that slut. I bet you thought you could keep it a secret forever. You men think women become idiots when we fall in love, don't you? You guys...". "Where is Antonella?!", Giovanni interrupted. "You said you're house-sitting for her. Why would she need a house-sitter? Where did she go?". To this, the mystery woman said, "She's been admitted at the Ospedale di Santo Spirito. Antonella had an anxiety attack last night." There was silence again. "Hello? Hello?", the mystery woman called out but her calls were all in vain - Giovanni had already bolted out the house, en route to the hospital in question.
Somehow, Giovanni managed to beat the Mass-inspired traffic jam of Sunday morning Rome, while driving absent-mindedly. Upon arrival at the hospital, Giovanni was informed that Antonella had not eaten for more than 10 days! A duration of time in which she had soaked herself with only alcohol and tears. Her body was bound to crash. When Giovanni revealed himself as Antonella's fiancé, the nurse on duty finally agreed to let him see her. As Giovanni approached the weakened but awake Antonella, he cringed and stopped in his tracks as their eyes met. Antonella looked away to the table beside her bed. She tried to reach for the cup of water on the table but she was too weak to do it. Giovanni rushed to her aid and placed the cup of water in her hands. At this, Antonella summonsed every joule of energy in her and poured the water on Giovanni's face. The nurse quickly rushed to Giovanni and began to escort him out of the room. As he walked away, Giovanni looked into Antonella's eyes. Her eyes were like the eyes of a dragon - ablaze with a fiery rage that couldn't be quenched. Outside the room, the nurse offered Giovanni a towel to dry himself and some words of wisdom. This is what the nurse said, "Look, Mr. Insua. I don't know why you did it. All I know is that you're not the first to do it and neither are you the last. The truth is, more than 50% of the men in Italy have cheated, are cheating or are about on the women in their lives. Whenever these women find out what their men are doing behind their backs, they usually react to it in insane ways. We see it all the time here in this hospital. The women think that by doing this, their men will feel sorry for hurting them, and consequently, change for them. Unfortunately for both the hurt women and their cheating men, this never works out. You know why?". Giovanni looked at the nurse and shook his head in ignorance. The nurse continued, "Because all the tears of all the women in the world cannot wash away the filthy nature of a man who cannot control his libido. Only that man can decide to change himself." Giovanni pondered on the nurse's words as he walked to his car. He knew that he would never see Antonella again. Only this time, he had decided it for himself.
Have you ever heard of the sayings: "Forgive and forget" and "To err is human; to forgive, divine"? Of course you have! As long as, you are a human being who understands the English language, you already know these sayings. Granted that you might not know them word for word, however, throughout your life, you will be introduced to several variations of these sayings, at least once. Examples: "Let go and let God", "Live and let live", "Nobody's perfect", "Unforgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die", "Everyone makes mistakes" etc. These sayings are the bitter pills our concerned physicians(whom we sometimes call friends, family, pastor, counsellor, shrink etc) prescribe for the healing of our deeply-offended souls. The Offended is encouraged to 'forgive and forget' because 'to err is human; to forgive, divine'. While the Offender is simply asked to apologize and atone for the offence committed if possible or necessary. This, to the Offended, always seems like an unfair exchange. An apology, a prison sentence, financial restitution, acts of remorse, the acceptance of responsibility and even the death of the Offender virtually does nothing to appease the hurting Offended. This is because forgiving a deeply, hurtful offence is an alien practice in the human world that takes a lot of time to get used to. Yes, Alexander Pope was right: to forgive really is divine, because humanity is not accustomed to this practice of God, yet. As a result of this, what most Offended people tend NOT to do is looking for an apology or a recompense from the Offender. Their true desire is to see the Offender suffer equally as(or, in most cases, more than) they have suffered, or are suffering. As far as the human soul is concerned, the only way to heal its pain is by expressing pain. This irrational 'expression of pain' takes the form of retribution, venting, the 'silent treatment' or even denial. The most common route an offended person takes is Retribution. This is usually done in two ways: Vengeful Actions or Emotional Manipulation. This essay seeks to address the art of Emotional Manipulation as a passive-aggressive means of retribution.
Emotional manipulation is the art of getting someone to accept and believe in 'who they are to you', by convincing them to make amends for 'the wrong they've done to you', repeatedly. The emotionally manipulative person employs SHAME as his or her number weapon. Not the manipulator's shame, but the pressure-induced shame of the manipulator's victim. Shame is simply a feeling, belief or predominant thought that there's something wrong with you. The person feeling shame thereby renders himself or herself as unworthy, dishonourable or an embarrassment to themselves and others alike. Unlike guilt, which is the feeling of doing something wrong, shame is the feeling of being something wrong. You can only be guilty or feel guilty for doing something wrong, and not for who you are. No human is ever born a mistake! The things that happen or are done to us, and the things that we do may cause mistakes to us, in us, to others or in others. However, I reiterate, no human is life is a mistake. Therefore it is counterintuitive for any human to believe that their existence is just a fluke in the Universe; because they 'feel', or, they were told that there is something wrong with them. Of course, there will be some who may mistaken this above statement to mean that we should encourage serial killers, rapists and genocidal dictators to continue to 'be themselves'. That is far from the point. My point here is, the killer, rapist or genocidal dictator was never predestined to be so as he or she may feel, think or believe. Who we become is based on the responses we choose for life's questions. Apologizing can remove guilt but apologizing cannot remove shame. You can and must apologize for whatever wrong that is done by you. You cannot and mustn't apologize for who somebody thinks you are; even if they're right. "Why?", you ask.
It's simple, an apology can never change the past, and neither does it have the power to alter a person's identity.
We think we know how other people are, when in reality, we haven't even figured out who we are ourselves. Therefore, it is completely foolish of anybody to close the chapter on another person's life, because of what that person has done or is doing. Yet, this is exactly what an Emotional Manipulator does. The Offended, who has now become the Emotional Manipulator, sees the Offender in a negative light because of the offence in between them. The Offended assumes that he or she is more righteous than the Offender because of this and decides to take advantage of the remorseful Offender. The Emotional Manipulator/Offended tries to convince the Offender that the Offender owes the Manipulator a debt by constantly reminding the Offender of the offence. Sometimes, the Manipulator may use the silent treatment as a way of getting the message across. The objective of this is to blackmail the Offender's emotions into guilt, again and again, for the selfish purposes of the Emotional Manipulator/Offended. If the Offender has already rendered the acceptable atonement for his or her wrongdoing, then there should be no room for guilt anymore. The debt has been paid. If the Offender is still feeling guilt, then that isn't guilt. That's called shame. The shame becomes a dare: a dare to the Offender to prove his or her 'righteousness' to the Offended who is emotionally manipulating him or her. By doing this, the Offended-turned-Emotional Manipulator simultaneously 'punishes' the Offender, while profiting at the Offender's expense. Killing two birds with one stone: retribution and subjugation, dished out in style. This is how most offenders become victimized by the people they have offended through emotional manipulation.
Most of the time, we think that by apologizing and doing acts of remorse to appease the people we've hurt, we can somehow change. All we are actually doing is trying desperately to make ourselves feel better from our own guilt or shame. The one in wrong must engage in a tete-a-tete with his or her own soul before reaching out to whoever may have suffered from his or her actions. If not, he or she is more likely than not, to become a victim of emotional manipulation. If what you did wrong is a reflection of who you are, it is not up to the person whom you've wronged to change you. Every doctor will tell you that treating a symptom will never cure its underlying disease, even if you do it with all the love and care in the world. Who you are, what you've done, and the changes you need to make is between you and your God. It doesn't matter whether the people you've offended are right or wrong, punishing yourself by agreeing with them doesn't solve YOUR problem. Instead of seeking self-absolution for your 'transgressions' at the hands of another error-prone human, here's what you should do first: buy yourself some flowers, write yourself an apology letter and WALK AWAY from your old ways. Then buy some flowers for the one you've hurt, write an apology letter to them, and whether they accept and believe that you have changed or not, KEEP WALKING AWAY from your old ways. There's no point in proving yourself to, arguing against or negotiating with an Emotional Manipulator - they will always feel that they're right, and that there's something wrong with you.