Know your customer

Blessing Musariri Shelling The Nuts
Easter is a celebratory time for Christians. We are celebrating the day Jesus Christ conquered death after dying on the cross to save us all from sin. We are redeemed. So why does it seem these days that there is a rush on sinning and to a degree so great we are under threat of exterminating ourselves? Of course we don’t all follow the Christian doctrine but for those of us who do and for the simple fact that we are humans sharing a world, shouldn’t our spirituality generally make us better people? And shouldn’t that then make the world a better place? I suppose as humans, we will never stop committing sin; it is in our nature, as the scorpion said to the frog.

So, Jesus is risen and “will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead.” Forgiveness is at the forefront of what Jesus’ death stands for as far as I can see. He forgave even those who tortured and killed him. This is a big thing especially when among ourselves we find we cannot forgive much smaller things. It is not a simple thing to forgive so in the meantime we judge each other and try our best to let things go. What I find will actually surprise you are the things you cannot forgive, rather than the things you thought would be your sticking point.

A friend told me his aunt finally divorced her husband of many years because one day as she sat across him at their dining table she decided she could not bear to sit and watch him ever again, eat another apple in the manner he had which had caused her great irritation throughout the years. She hated the way he chewed apples and unfortunately for him, on that day it was one apple too many.

Of course that was probably the straw that broke the camel’s back but that’s just how it is in life. She had probably spent years forgiving but not quite forgetting many bigger sins and most likely would have continued to do so if it had not been his bad luck to pick an apple from the fruit basket that day instead of an orange. It’s like the proviso in criminal law that you take your victim as you find them, meaning, for instance, if you gave someone a hearty knock on the head (in jest, even) without knowing that he has a blood clot that was just waiting for that jolt that you provided, to travel to his brain and kill him, then unlucky you; you picked the wrong person to knock on the head because you have basically caused their death and will be held responsible. In this case, an apple was the pre-existing condition for the death knell.

Anyway, going back to Easter, a good friend, in the process of catching up after some time incommunicado, rattled off a list of calamities that had befallen her friends, the majority of them being fatal. One thing that kept coming up was that it was such a shame as they had been such good people. I said to her, “Does it not concern you that all these good people are going to meet their maker.” Didn’t Jesus say he would come as a thief in the night and take all the good people first? What does this make us who are being left behind? As we like to say, pafunge! Are we the ones who are going to be required to fill out application forms for the few places left in heaven? God help us especially if the odds are like trying to get into a free European university that has only 40 places to offer on a course which receives 900 applications. Another true story. If you’ve watched the movie Hunger Games I hope you were taking notes.

We had all better get to forgiving each other the way Jesus forgave those who persecuted him, and get busy living better lives. Easier said than done. Forgiving is hard, especially when some things seem unforgivable.

It’s not that you hold an active grudge; it’s just that you can never go back to the way things were. Is it really practical and useful to forgive and forget though? Would you forget that the day you walked into long grass barefoot and you were bitten by a snake? You don’t hate the snake and curse it, (or maybe you do but what is the use, the snake doesn’t care, it was just doing what snakes do) but you will definitely remember that snakes bite and exercise caution the next time. Maybe you will decide to never again walk into long grass even if you are wearing shoes and socks because the first experience was traumatic enough.

You don’t forget and if you do you will likely be forcibly reminded. Someone told me recently that forgiveness means I don’t retaliate but I do not forget and I no longer consider us the same as before. Yet another person simply said, forgiveness is for God, I am only human. That is where I suppose the saying comes from, “To err is human, to forgive divine.” Which is why, I suppose, we all aspire to be more godly in our worldly efforts, why we go to church, why we pray and meditate and try whenever we can to do the thing that brings us to that better place within ourselves. A state of grace if you will. A thing that is difficult enough on a micro level, never mind on a global scale. You don’t even need to go out into the world at large to test your levels of divine grace; family will be your first and last battle ground. As they say, charity begins at home, square one.

One thing I have grown up hearing is, know and understand who you are dealing with and act accordingly. In a simpler and much catchier version, “know your customer”. This means, if you know the character of a person, do not expect them to behave in a manner that is inconsistent with what and who they are, this is what leads to conflict and unhappiness.

You cannot make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, so therefore do not try because you will be unhappy with the results. All these sayings arise from life observations and experience gathered over time, they are not just things to learn from a Students’ Companion, in order to pass your Grade 7 English paper.

Now, I’m not sure if I’ve told the story before about the frog and scorpion. I tell it so often you would think I might have learnt from it by now, but I will tell it again here, to illustrate the “know your customer” advice. A scorpion wanted to cross the river and couldn’t find a way to do it successfully on his own. Along came a frog. “Frog,” he said, “could you please carry me across the river on your back. I want to get to the other side.” The frog said, “Hell no! I look like a fool to you? You’ll sting me.” (This frog I think, spent some time in America and picked up some of the diction, either that, or watches too much popular programming on TV).

The scorpion said, “No I won’t sting you, I promise. I just really want to get to the other side.” Eventually the frog relented and agreed to carry the scorpion. As they got to the other side and the scorpion was alighting from the frog’s back, he stung him. “Hey!” the frog said, “you promised you wouldn’t sting me.”

“I’m sorry,” said the scorpion, “I can’t help it, it’s in my nature.” In cases like these, as I believe is true of many others, it is difficult to forgive because the person you have to forgive is yourself. You know you should have known better.

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