Poster child for the human condition.

I was angry with my friend./ I told my wrath, my wrath did end./ I was angry with my foe./ I told it not, my wrath did grow;/ And I water’d it in fears,/ Night and morning with my tears;/ And I sunned it with smiles,/ And with soft deceitful wiles;/ And it grew both day and night/ Till it bore an apple bright,/ And my foe beheld it shine,/ And he knew that it was mine,/ And into my garden stole/ When the night had veil’d the pole./ In the morning glad I see/ My foe outstretched beneath the tree.  (A Poison Tree, William Blake).

We’ve all heard this poem, or some piece of it, I think.  The old story, the ancient lesson.  Hiding our bitterness and anger in our own hearts, directing it inward, poisoning ourselves even as we poison others with it.  I’m living this experience right now, from two directions.  The first is with a dear, old friend who is deeply angry with me.  I know it, she knows it.  But she won’t tell me, out loud.  Instead, every conversation we have is spiked with discomfort, anxiety, even resentment.  She won’t tell, and I can’t ask.  At least, yet.  I’m watching us sun our friendship, and this hidden hurt, with smiles, watering it with tears in the shadows, hoping the other person will do the right thing.  And neither of us is, because of pride.  And because of hurt on both sides.  So one of us is going to end up eating that apple.

Then there’s the other direction, one I’m struggling with even more.  In this, I’m the one who’s angry.  Exceptionally, truly angry.  You know, that kind of roiling orange rage that is so hot it turns blue near the source, where it sears away the ability to think rationally or compassionately about the real problem.  The source of it is an injustice.  The result of it is a lost relationship.  The problem is the secrecy in between.  The reason isn’t really important.  In fact, it’s meaningless.  The problem is my reaction.  I don’t believe in a God who punishes people for doing wrong.  In fact, the God I’ve clung to for the last year or so, hoping desperately I’m right about some-damn-thing in this world and please-let-this-be-it, gives more grace to people who are messed up and who make messes and disasters for others than for those who don’t (my theology professor may be throwing her head into her hands right now, or drinking).  I believe that there’s a bigger serving of grace for those of us who are truly screwing things up.  Because we need it more.  That’s the God I know.  It’s the God I’ve met and recognized.  It’s the God who, against all odds, loves me and the rest of this world.  So.  That doesn’t change the fact that whenever I think about this person, I sort of desperately want God to strike her over the head with a two-by-four.  Or a lightning bolt, old-school.  At least make her fail at something today, or tomorrow.  Hell, I’d go for a heel breaking on a favorite pair of shoes.  Something, anything to prove that I’m right and she’s wrong and this isn’t fair and somebody Up There is getting all this on video.  Hmmmm…

See what I mean?  The problem is, I’m just about that angry, but I’m smiling and being normal when it really counts.  Which is disingenuous and feels pretty dirty to me.  And it’s exactly the opposite of what I’d really like for her to do, which is finally admit to me what she’s done.  Not to smile and stroke that lie with soft deceitful wiles.  Not to make me eat that apple.  But she won’t.  So I keep thinking about Jesus, ’cause that’s what a person should do when she’s this angry and feeling pretty self-righteous.  I keep seeing the Jesus who looked with pity on Peter in his idiocy and on Thomas as he tried to believe and on Mary when she didn’t recognize him.  That soft, sad, sort of flabbergasted look of love.  The one where I think he would have said, “Listen, kid, you’re just not really getting this.  I love that you’re trying, but turn about 180 degrees that direction… yeah, there you go… see that?  There’s where you’re supposed to be looking.”  Which is to say, inside.  Because it’s really nice to point fingers.  But it’s sort of ineffectual.  If I’m hiding my own stuff behind a smile, then it’s rather unjust to ask that everyone else be straightforward and open just because I’m feeling particularly righteous that day, especially targeted.

So here’s the deal.  I’m going to keep these friends.  I’m going to apologize to the first one so that one day I don’t wake up and find her passed out under that toxic apple tree and regret my error too late.  I’m going to look with compassion on the second one and wait patiently for her to turn around and look inside.   I’ll pray for them both.  But first I’ll pray for myself, that the sun shining out of my eyes is really light and not some false attempt to blind other people from seeing what’s really going on, that the fruit of my life is wholesome and healthy and not about to break apart a treasured relationship.  I’m going to learn a lesson from Eden.



  1. Jay Said:

    Jules, Thanks for sharing the vulnerability that we all have at one time or another (or perhaps very often) with other people in our lives. It reminds me of the quote from an unknown but wise person: “Resentment is the poison we drink, hoping someone else will die.” Glad you recognized the antidote when God turned you toward it.

  2. nancydayachauer Said:

    Today was the perfect day for me to read this as I prepare for a meeting with the PPRC and DS tonight.

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