A confrontation with questions
A local man in his 40's, not working and living in his parents’ condo, needed work and I had him paint my apartment, clean the rugs and clean a number of other things. He knows how to work and get things done. Later, he obtained some work as a dog groomer and was not as reliable. We got along, both being younger in a senior Florida community. He had in his youth been in a drug rehab program, divorced and was now broke. At times I lent him money and he worked it off. He wasn't detailed oriented in his housework. Later he didn't always call, or he called when he needed money. So we gradually trailed off. I'd have him clean the bathroom and kitchen every other week.
I trusted him. One day I left my wallet out front. One time I was missing a couple of hundred dollars and assumed it was my fault. Another time the same thing happened. The third time I questioned if it could be Sam? If not, who? The landscapers? I doubt it. They liked me. Who then? Did I repeatedly misplace it? I almost became paranoid. $500 was gone. Could I be that careless? I wrestled with asking Sam, thought it would betray our relationship, ran it by a couple of people who thought I should, and I eventually did. I worded it in a way that would just eliminate him as a suspect, that I was sorry to doubt him, but I needed him to confirm my doubts were wrong. He got insulted. Later, he said he couldn't sleep, became depressed and went downhill. Six weeks later he must have been deeply troubled over it, for he confronted me at the pool in front of people. He implied I was paranoid and suspicious and called me “misguided” and not trustworthy. So he was on the attack in front of neighbors. I couldn't let him get away with this so I said you act like this after I gave you work and lent you money, and after all this found money missing from my house. It also came to a physical face off. I should have walked away. Several guards were called; he could have gotten himself thrown out if he stayed so he disappeared. I called him and he was extremely angry. He said all he had was his integrity and I brought that into question.
So what was the trouble? Was I right to do what I did? I think yes. I lost an acquaintance by doing so but could I help it? In thinking back I don't think he did it. But, I needed confirmation to relieve my doubts. No, it wasn't fully loyal. It wasn't what a great friend would do. But it was a knee jerk reaction I had. He wasn't a lifelong friend. The evidence was there to raise suspicions. Another friend confirmed that he would have questioned him too as I did.
Instead of being a purist, he could have said, “gee, you disappoint me. I would never do that to you.” Or he could have humbled himself and said, “Steve, I wouldn't do that. Trust me. I swear it.” Instead, broke, living in his parents place, he was aloof and responded as if beyond reproach.
Still later, I wrote to him a note stating I thought he was wrong to start a public incident, but that in honor of our old belief in one another here was $30 as a down payment for a rug cleaner to service surrounding areas outside of the immediate vicinity. Our argument discredited him locally. I said “people do good and bad things” and didn't excuse myself.
This last statement is interesting. My friend Sam thought what I did was evil, disloyal, and bad. I thought it didn't show loyalty, but it was pragmatic. To this day I couldn't swear that he didn't steal the money. For me it was an evidence driven decision. I'm not sure if it was evil or bad. To Sam I betrayed him. To me, and I'm a little older, you can suspect someone of wrongdoing yet still not betray them or even make an enemy. Even if he was a thief, I could still forgive him, even be cordial. It's a bad character flaw, but it’s not terminal. As said before, people do good and bad things.
So there are two perspectives here, two systems of looking at friendships and people. Maybe the word honor applies. Sam saw his honor violated, that he had been demeaned. This is one way of looking at it. We have dignity, honor, and we have to preserve it. This is assuming he was in fact honorable and did not steal.
The other way is that people do good and bad things. If I did bad, it's just a human flaw, part of the whole. Let it go, move on. It's all part of “the good, the bad, the ugly” within us all.
Then there were my own personal questions. There is the spirited, behavioral ideal where one hones one's character to be consistent and centered no matter what the circumstances. Extremes of behavior are aberrations to be weeded out. The Zen masters, the spiritual monks, the aesthetics rather die than betray a code of behavior. In our modern times, a sort of spiritual evolution seeks to create a center within, physically, mentally and emotionally. One does not want to discard this. Meditation, yoga, other disciplines encourage this. In the west being a spiritual transformer, a “cool hand Luke,” a Jesuit monk, or practicing transcendental meditation is our version of this. They are all efforts to refine our behavior and work out of our systems, our lesser behavior.
On the other hand we go back to the statement “people do good and bad things.” Can one change that proportion really? Is good and bad written in us at all no matter how refined our training? Is it just the human condition, a fight between morality and immorality, right versus wrong, good versus evil, that is in us all? Are we all given a range, a portion we bring with us throughout life? The American Indians plundered, scalped, raped and pillaged, but eventually some gained wisdom. So this speaks to experiencing all of life.
Both are valid. Both are to be considered as part of our totality.