Two Men, Two Egos, and No Gentle Words

(Mike DePung — Post 182)

When I write, I draw on a variety of texts, literature, and letters with which I am familiar. An event that I briefly witnessed this morning induced an immediate association with a relatively well-known biblical verse, Proverbs 15:1: “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

How easy harsh words come, especially when egos are aroused. This morning I saw an episode illustrating this, and it was maybe two minutes long — a classic example of a conflict of egos. Harsh words that escalate conflict, resolve nothing, and do not end in peace exemplify how ego works.

This is the way it went down. I really enjoy walking my puppies in the morning. I say puppies, but they’re really adults, an 8 year old female and a 6 year old male — Sassy and Spirit. They are big, beautiful, white fluffy kuvaszok, plural for kuvasz, the Hungarian version of the French great Pyrenees. We were walking together this morning about 6:30 on the same route we usually take, seeing the same people we usually see. It was a gray morning, damp with occasional light rain, which began falling on us halfway through our walk. That’s when I saw the two men.

Sassy and Spirit

Because we walk about the same time every morning every day of the year, we see the same people — walking themselves, walking their dogs, driving up the street. Since my puppies are fairly distinctive, everybody recognizes them. I wave a dozen or so times a morning, but they are usually smiling at the puppies.

One couple that we often see are in their seventies, both very healthy. The man always rides his simple bike, and his wife walks, I mean trucks, down the main street. Bicycle Man, which is what I call him because he calls me White Dog Man, threads his way through the very large church parking lots and property, as well as the surrounding side streets. The couple is never really together, so they weren’t the conflict focus.

No, it happened between Bicycle Man and one of the church maintenance men, a young guy about 25 or 30 years old. I see him most mornings, too, and we wave. As the puppies and I approached the area of recycle dumpsters that the church hosts, I could immediately see that an unpleasant confrontation was occurring, and I could hear them fairly clearly.

“I told you you couldn’t do this any more!” yelled Maintenance Man, waving his phone towards Bicycle Man.

“I’m not hurting anything.”

“Get out of here. I’m calling the police this time.”

“My wife is a good member of this church.”

“Good, maybe she should know what you’re doing.”

This little exchange seemed to get louder and the body language more hostile with every word.

“I’m calling the cops now.”

Bicycle man saw him punching numbers on his cell phone. “Oh, no, c’mon now, don’t be like that. I won’t do it anymore, I promise.”

“Too late for that.”

Now they were walking towards the maintenance building about 40 or 50 yards away, Bicycle Man pleading, begging with Maintenance Man. At one point, I suppose that Bicycle Man touched the other on his arm to try and turn him around. Then, Maintenance Man said he would call a lawyer, too, which was a bit of a relief to me, because for a split second I thought he was going to hit the old man. Now, the old man had been pretty aggressive; I’m not assigning blame here.

Any other morning that my big furry puppies weren’t in danger of getting very soaked, I would have intervened. Was this the Spirit just keeping me out of it, because it quit raining by the time we were home five minutes later?

This whole scene bothered me very much then, and it has all day. To me, it illustrates how crucial the choice of Heart is when receiving input and emitting responses. I know I speak a lot about this; it’s a theme of my upcoming novel, The Fellowship of the Heart, but it’s a reality to me every day because the choice is continual. And that is a good thing.

Why? Choice means freedom, and if we aren’t choosing — which might seem like a chore to some — we have closed our spiritual eyes and ears, senses, to our hearts. We become enslaved to ego, and bitterness reigns.

Neither Bicycle Man nor Maintenance Man made a choice for heart. No choosing is a choice for ego. On the part of either one, what would a gentle word have done? I’m not even talking about situations where assertiveness is called for, which can be accomplished in Heart, but I’m talking about a common, daily situation.

And my overarching thought was this: With all the horrible shit going on in the world today, how in the hell does a few aluminum cans become such a source of spirit-killing, shame-filling, and soul-degrading conflict? Really?!

They live with their choice. I don’t presume that I even might have reacted differently in either one of their shoes. I think I would have, but I, ultimately, would not accuse or blame them. I would and do love them and wish that they could reconcile.

“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” So easy to utter a soft answer if acting through Heart, but it’s so difficult when the other uses a harsh ego word to stir up anger. It’s the way wars are started!

Who knows? Maybe I will see them Monday morning! And until then, all positive spiritual energy for wholeness and well-being will be directed from my heart to theirs.

Blessings to all for gentle words!