I always hear people say “He brings out the worst in me”, or “She brings out the best in me”. Being human, we’re all capable of great love and kindness, but we’re also capable of hatred and extreme cruelty. We’re fickle that way. You know how it is—one minute you can be donating to charity, and the next minute find yourself sticking pins in a voodoo doll. What’s that? You don’t have any voodoo dolls? If it’s just me, how do you explain the continued global phenomenon of burning political leaders in effigy during mass protests?
See how the word nun was used as a metaphor for all that is good, kind and selfless? Conversely, see how serial killer was used as a metaphor for all that is cruel and twisted? Actually, as recent lawsuits tied to the discovery of mass graves at Catholic orphanages point out, there are some cruel and twisted nuns out there. There are also some serial killers who genuinely wanted to relieve human suffering.
Having been raised in a civilization with a war-based economy, our inner landscapes are riddled with hidden land mines. It is, after all, children who reside at the bottom of the hill down which the proverbial shit rolls until it hits the fan. Then it gets on everybody. Many of those land mines were planted by the cruelty of poverty and its side effects–addiction and violence. We never know when someone might accidentally step on and detonate one of them.
I realize that saying that someone brings out the best in you is intended as a compliment. That person is sensitive, able to spot your land mines and gingerly avoid them to help you exist in a peaceful state. For this, a compliment of gratitude is certainly in order. We can give credit where credit is due—and perhaps blame as well, for those who bring out the worst in us, those who find our triggers and happily use them to make us dance like grotesque puppets.
But ultimately, we must all move past credit and blame to accepting full responsibility for becoming our own bomb squads, seeking out and diffusing those land mines before anyone else gets hurt. We must become completely responsible for the full range of our human capacity for both good and evil, for our orphanages and our Abu Graibs. Sadly, sometimes they are one and the same.
Do you still have a few hidden land mines? How do you diffuse yours?