Have you ever looked in a person’s eyes and knew immediately that something was wrong? Saying what you sense can be risky because you never know how the other person will take the information. And what happens if you are so convinced that your intuition is correct that you take it a step further and share your concerns and the individual flicks it off like a piece of lint? And you make an even greater effort and address your concerns with the person’s boss, only to have your insight ignored again?
It’s easy for me to rely on my own intuition to help guide my life, because that is what I do in my work. But getting a person who is not a trusted friend or a client to listen is often a lot harder. And there’s the other issue of me being morally committed to not violating another person’s privacy and giving them information without being asked.
My internal struggle with knowing when to say something led to me writing this blog today. It involved a carpenter who was working on a big project in our building. The difficulty of job was due in part because “Bill” had to interact with one female in our cooperative who has a DNA for control. He was a friendly guy, and unfortunately made the mistake of giving his cell phone number to the female bully and she called him all hours of the day and night. He did not establish boundaries and tell her to stop or simply decide to keep his cell phone turned off when he went home. Bill’s reactions to her mirrored those of others in our cooperative who would do anything rather than go up against the female bully. I faced the same dilemma myself, after serving for 3 years on the Board, and made the decision to resign when we got into a shouting match over the phone and I decided to listen when my intuition it told me, “she is not worth it.”
One particular day I looked “Bill” in the eye and saw what I sensed as a feeling of hopelessness. The feeling hit me so hard I took the time to ask him if everything was okay and if he was getting enough rest. Bill pushed off my comment and gave me a fake smile to back up that “everything was okay.” When I got to work, the feeling I had about Bill kept nagging me and I decided to call his boss and suggest that perhaps his worker needed some time off. I mentioned the strong personality he was dealing with and my sense of what was present in Bill’s eyes.
The owner on the company is a good man, but he had also fallen into the same stressed out camp of allowing the female bully to bully him. I guess it is easy to understand why my suggestion fell on deaf ears. As the Board President at the time when the project began, I specifically warned the owner about the female bully, but he did not heed my advice to keep her at arms length.
A week or so later, Bill, the carpenter quit. It turned out he was a recovering alcoholic and had relapsed. All this happened well over a year ago, but it all came flooding back when the owner of the construction company sent me a text telling me that Bill had died of alcoholism.
As you can imagine the owner of the company is in pain over all this. And even though he is not a client, I gave him the following spiritual treatment to help him though this period:
1. Each day say the Serenity Prayer as many times as possible.
2. While driving when feelings of anxiety and guilt come up say the Lord’s Prayer out loud at least ten times.
3. Remember funny stories about Bill and pray for his family and children.
4. Reach out to the family on a consistent basis and do random acts of kindness on a regular basis.
The news of Bill’s death affected me to deeply, I had to do my own treatment because there is still the nagging feeling inside that I could have done more to help.
In hindsight, I realize how easy it was for me to recognize the warning signs in Bill’s eyes because alcoholism has played a role in two critical male relationships in my life. First, my Dad was an alcoholic during my teenage years. This was the over 30 years ago, and people did not talk about alcoholism like they do today. My mother’s way of handling it was to tell us that nothing was wrong. This experience so affected me that I only realized the full impact it had on my life, when I had to come to gripes with the fact that my first marriage was to an alcoholic.
My dad eventually stopped drinking and became the kind of father who supported us all and did everything he could to help others. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for my first husband, we divorced and he has never been able to beat this dreadful disease.
Today the old hurts came flooding back this morning over young man I knew only briefly who died. And I would be remiss if I did not mention, I do have resentment in my heart over the female bully in my building who I believe played a part in pushing him over the edge. The owner of the company and I agreed that we would not share the news of Bill’s death with her. I have watched her long enough and she has no capacity for guilt so telling her would not change anything. And I should add most likely she was not the only factor in causing Bill’s relapse. As a recovering alcoholic, there is no telling the other issues he was facing.
As part of the human experience, we owe it to each other to attempt to say discuss our concerns with people we care about. Yes, it is risky and not everyone will admit to you that they are in trouble. But saying nothing will hurt much worse if something occurs and you find yourself regretting over not having taken the chance to express what you sense.