Friday, May 16, 2008

Seemingly Unaffected By Traumatic Life Experiences

Story #1:

During a trip overseas, Yaakov Mendel was bitten by a mosquito, became deathly ill, and had to be medevaced back to the United States for emergency medical treatment. With fluid surrounding his brain, Yaakov Mendel's doctors suggested that his family be summoned because his death was imminent. Miraculously, he somehow slowly recovered and aside from no longer being able to fly on a airplane because of the cabin pressure, he has no other adverse health effects. Returning to the workplace after his extended absence, he once again got caught in the details was regarded as a micro-manager by his subordinates; never seeming to care about the lives of the people who worked for him.

After the news reported that the first plane had struck the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, he resumed his work of meticulously editing reports. Although the rest of his co-workers were glued to the television, he continued work diligently even after the news of the second plane. The events being reported didn't seem to concern him since they were occurring in another city. In his eyes the most important thing was meeting the deadline for the reports and accomplishing the task at hand.

Story #2:

Tzvi Hirsh was raised in a religious home and considered himself to be a "religious" person with a strong moral compass. Mid-way through his career, his wife was diagnosed with cancer.

His wife's health rapidly deteriorated and the numerous chemotherapy treatments that she underwent left her bedridden. Their teenage children were forced to attend to her so Tzvi Hirsh could go to work each day and financially support the family.

To the outside observer, however, Tzvi Hirsh displayed no sign of the stress he was going through at home and rarely spoke about his wife's condition to others. He continued to carry himself in an arrogant manner and was often condescending to those working for him. While he never gave words of praise for a job well done to a subordinate, he was quick to criticize their actions and routinely attempted to micro-manage their every tasking. This occurred day in and day out without respite.

Although it is impossible to know all the details of Yaakov Mendel and Tzvi Hirsh's lives or know what is in their hearts, it seems unfathomable that the traumatic life experiences they endured didn't make them into more humane people in their dealing with others. Do you understand how this could be so?


At May 16, 2008 at 9:58:00 AM EDT, Blogger Alice said...

Sometimes it takes courage to let something effect you the way it should. In both of the stories the people are going through traumas that are hugely life-impacting. They would need the ability to wrestle with their emotions and face questions for which there may be no answer, both of which are unappealing.

When my sister had cancer I alternated between no emotion and total bawling. (Thank God she's doing great.) I was nice to be around. Not.

At May 16, 2008 at 10:01:00 AM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Alice: I couldn't have answered it any better than you did. You hit the nail squarely on the head!

At May 16, 2008 at 10:05:00 AM EDT, Blogger Alice said...

Follow me around all day saying that please.

At May 16, 2008 at 10:28:00 AM EDT, Anonymous chabakuk elisha said...

When I was a child I once complained to someone about an elderly man who was always cranky and nasty, and who I was somewhat scared of. The individual listened to me and replied that elderly people often suffer from many ailments and often have gone through many hard experiences in life that sometimes puts them in a perpetual bad mood.
So I asked, “But why take it out on everyone else? Shouldn’t they be even kinder to everyone else?”
And I remember the response I got, and I think it’s true, was:
“Very often you will find that people deal with hardship in opposite ways. Some people suffer in life and become sweet as sugar while others become very frustrated and angry. Part if it is the nature of the individual and part of it is by choice; but everyone who deals with suffering is faced with this reality. If you find it troubling, don’t judge that person - people are just people - rather, make sure that you will be different.”

At May 16, 2008 at 10:35:00 AM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Chabakuk Elisha: It appears your answer ties back to learning from Good Bad Examples that we discussed earlier this week.

At May 16, 2008 at 1:51:00 PM EDT, Blogger Gandalin said...

Or as Joshua Chamberlain said at the outset of the American Civil War, the war will make some men better and some men worse, and he wanted to find out what sort of man he would be. We all found out.

At May 17, 2008 at 1:53:00 PM EDT, Blogger muse said...

One never knows what's going on inside a person. And you don't know about their "baggage."


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