“Not a single dime more!” I said it one more time for emphasis and slammed down the telephone. Looking up, I saw the Lovely Lady gazing back at me with a look of sympathy on her face, but no…it wasn’t sympathy; it was more like worry. “Your blood pressure…” she said quietly. She was right. My heart was pounding, my palms sweaty, and I could feel the vein in my neck pulsing forcefully. As soon as I had a chance, I found a place to sit for a few moments and calm my screaming spirit. My body functions soon followed suit, but the anger took a little longer to subside.
I guess you probably need a little more of the story to sate your curiosity, don’t you? It’s not everyday that this guy talks to strangers with such force and emotion. Oh, I’ve had my share of these little talks with “customer service representatives”, but I work to keep the angry words to a minimum. Those kind of words don’t pay off, either for me, or for helping to sweet talk the person on the other end of the line.
The Lovely Lady had placed the invoice in front of me purposefully, earlier in the day. “Did you order this?” she inquired innocently. I looked at the item and immediately answered, “No, I did not!” Then I remembered. The suave young man had called, letting me know that he worked for the company from which I normally purchased some of our print advertising. We chatted for awhile and then he asked me if I wanted to renew my ad. I did. Except, it turns out that he meant renew it in a different media. I never caught on to what I was buying until it was too late; the verbal contract was recorded, and the grace period of three days (during which I could have backed out) was past. Now, the Lovely Lady was looking at me and holding a bill for $900.
Nine hundred dollars! I don’t have that amount of spare cash to waste on Internet advertising! I immediately called the company, begging and cajoling anyone who would talk with me. They were adamant. The grace period was past; there was no backing out. I grew more and more angry, although I did control my temper outwardly. There was no shouting, I didn’t say any words that I would be embarrassed to say in front of my mother. But I verbally unloaded on the hapless supervisor to whom I had eventually been handed off. It was to no avail. I fumed for the rest of the evening. The Lovely Lady stayed out of my way.
Late last night, as I sat, my imagination toying with different scenarios for a) getting out of the contract, and b)paying back those stubborn imbeciles, I realized something. I wasn’t really angry at the advertising company. I wasn’t really angry at their customer service rep, nor even at her supervisor. Oh, I’m still convinced that their business model is fatally flawed, but that’s not the point anymore. I was angry at ME!
I didn’t pay attention to the words the salesman said. I didn’t look at the written contract when it was delivered. On both occasions, I believed that I was fully aware of what I had done. There was no reason to second guess myself, no reason to suspect that I was in error at all. Why? Well, as anyone can tell you, I never make mistakes! I am infallible, knowing all, and seeing every attempt made to fool me. Well, that’s frequently my attitude anyway. Despite my numerous failures, and clumsiness at this game of life, I constantly imagine myself to be bulletproof. But it seems that each time I think I am standing firm, the ground beneath my feet begins to quiver anew, with today’s earthquake reminding me, sometimes in the most devastating of ways, that I am merely a man after all.
I was angry at me. But, I took it out on a convenient secondary target. I could rationalize that. It was they, after all who wouldn’t grant me a pardon, wouldn’t reduce the sentence for my stupidity. It was all their fault. My finger, instead of pointing to the idiot who actually messed up, pointed straight and accusingly at the ones who wouldn’t release me from the wages of my error.
You do see where this is headed, don’t you? Oh, we could beat around the bush and talk about different generations who blame their troubles on the one prior. We could waste time castigating classes of people who blame others more well off than they for their poverty. But, that would be missing the point, wouldn’t it?
Until we take responsibility for our own failures, our own shortcomings, our own sins, we are simply making noises into the wind, wasting our time and breath, accomplishing nothing. Until we are ready to say the words, and mean them, we will stay, frozen in place at the point of our error. My fault…I confess…I repent…I was wrong. They are not words of weakness, but of strength. They are not words that impair, but that heal. There is One who stands ready to release us from the prison of our sin. His “grace period” never expires. But, as long as we blame races, and classes, and powers, and Him, we make the choice to stay in a prison of our own making.
Do you remember the little game we played when we were kids? We called it “Who Stole The Cookie”, but it could have been called “The Blame Game”. (Accuser)“Who stole the cookie from the cookie jar? Johnny stole the cookie from the cookie jar.” (Johnny) “Who me” (Accuser) “Yes, you!” (Johnny) “Couldn’t be!” (Accuser) “Then who?” At this point, Johnny becomes the accuser and inserts someone else’s name in the little line of doggerel and the game goes on, and on, and on, and….Well, you get the picture. Did you ever stop to think about this? If one person–just one, were to say in reply, “Yes, It was me,” the game would be over instantly.
Do you think it’s time to break out of the pattern? Time to open up the prison doors? Time to stop the blame game? Confession is good for the soul. And, it hurts a lot less than you might think.
On a related thought, I’ll be paying for my stupidity for a few months to come. I’m going to remember who was responsible every time that check is written. Some of us learn more slowly than others…
“Therefore, make it your habit to confess your sins to one another and to pray for one another, so that you may be healed.”
“No one ever did, or ever will, escape the consequences of his choices.”
(Alfred Montapert~American motivational speaker)
© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2012. All Rights Reserved.