Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Easy to waste energy angry with those who hurt us

This week's Independent News & Media regionals newspapers' column.

Michael Commane
Some weeks back in this column I wrote about how a teacher in primary school gave us graphic details of what life would be like in hell.

So when I read Norman Tebbit's comments on the occasion of Martin McGuinness' death I was back thinking about 'that place'. Lord Tebbit's wife was permanently paralysed by the IRA's bombing of the Grand Hotel in Brighton in October 1984.

Lord Tebbit said that he hopes McGuinness is "parked in a particularly hot and unpleasant corner of hell for the rest of eternity."   

Ouch, that certainly leaves little to the imagination. Too harsh?

And Julie Hambleton, whose sister, Maxine was killed in the 1974 Birmingham pub bombings said: "People are piling the praise on him but it isn't valid. He didn't come forward with the truth."

Jonathan Powell, who was Chief of Staff in the Tony Blair government, said of Martin McGuinness: "When I first met him in 1997 I refused to shake his hand, seeing a terrorist in front of me. By the time I left Government 10 years later I regarded him as a friend."

Powell invited Martin to his wedding.

Over the last days commentators have spoken about the long journey that Martin McGuinness made. People have told various stories about the man. One of the most balanced pieces I heard was Olivia O'Leary's RTE Radio 1 column the day he died. She told how a mother from the Bogside brought her young son along to John Hume in an effort to keep him away from the IRA. 

John spent some time talking to him. The young man said nothing and when it came time for them to part, Martin McGuinness asked was it okay for him 'to go now'. 

It's usually considered a weakness when a person is seen as being 'subjective'. But isn't it inevitable that we're going to be subjective?

I can understand why Norman Tebbit and Julie Hambleton are angry with Martin McGuinness.
When someone does me a favour they go up in my estimation of them. When someone does something unpleasant or nasty to me then I will be suspicious of them, indeed, I might well grow to dislike them intensely. Is that not the way we are made?

Have you ever noticed someone who has had a charmed life in her or his place of employment how glowingly they will speak about the organisation. Whereas on the other hand, someone who has felt they have been treated badly, will be slow to say a good word about the place.

That's the way of the world. That's the way most of us work.

It requires grace, skill, courage, call it what you will, to rise above our particular, specific situation so as to see something in clear objective terms. But it can be done. And when we are able to do so we really free ourselves of such horrible baggage. The energy we waste, fixated on those who do us harm and wrong.

So often we know it's the road to travel but we simply don't have that particular skill to 'rise above it', forget about it and get on with our lives.

That's why I'm a great believer in people getting therapy, sitting down with a professional and receiving the best advice available. I'm convinced it's something most of us need. But I also find that line in the Bible a great help: "Do to others as you would have them to do you". (Luke 6: 31)
It's vital, at least to try, to free ourselves from "the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune."

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