Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Quote discipline Day 2

Trust men and they will be true to you treat them greatly, and they will show themselves great.

Laughing Out Loud At Myself! I opened this quote and the first words I saw were: "TRUST MEN AND..." Was this going to be some sarcastic quote about how us woman can't and shouldn't trust men? My first reaction was to laugh and half-agree, half-disagree.

Then I realised that's not what the quote was about at all. Of course it's something much deeper. Something I'm not sure I can unpack. It's really two separate statements, and I'm especially intrigued by the second statement: "treat them gently, and they will show themselves great."

Is there really a connection between gentle treatment and greatness? Yet again, I find myself pondering the afternoon in Timor Leste during which I was not sportsmanlike. That wasn't the first time I spoke sternly (read: shouted) at a colleague. Twice, I reprimanded my co-workers like a mother might her naughty child, the way I learned to do when I was a teacher. I treated my colleagues like deviant subordinates. (Which they kind of were, come to think of it, but still - it wasn't professionally ok.) In other words: I did not treat them gently.

But it worked. In both cases, they came back (literally - the reprimanding took place over the phone) and did their job. And they did their job very, very well - perhaps they had done their job that well some day in the past when they were less exhausted by life and less scared of life. But they hadn't done their job that well for a while. But after I let loose, they did what I'd always suspected they were capable of doing but not yet been able to confirm. They showed themselves great.

Meanwhile, I felt like a lump of feces, thoroughly broken down by how awfully I had behaved. Others heard my scolding and their respect for me fizzled. I was wrong. It worked, but I was wrong.

I told a friend what happened after each of these incidents. In the first instance, getting him to deliver the goods was important enough that she affirmed my roar. But I could tell he and I would never be on good terms again, not like before.

Then the second incident happened, and she said she'd seen this before. He may have been great on this day, but he would never work well with me again. I think she was right. I lost his trust - but if that was the price to pay for his greatness, then how do I know I was wrong?

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