I still remember the first sentence of Edgar Allen Poe’s short story “The Cask of the Amontillado.” I must have been in middle school when we read it, but that one line lingers:
“The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could, but when he ventured upon insult I vowed revenge.”
In case you have never read it, here’s the gist: this guy (Montresor) is insulted by a friend (Fortunato). Montresor then plots revenge by getting Fortunato drunk and then tricking him into a cellar with the bait of a Cask of Amontillado. Once in the cellar Montresor chains Fortunato to a wall, places bricks all around him to entomb him, and then drops a lit torch in the hole.
Yup, 7th grade reading list at it’s finest.
Motresor never specifies the nature of the thousand injuries that he has had to bear from Fortunato or the insult that seems to have pushed him over the edge, but you know it’s serious when he entombs the guy and burns him alive!
I feel Montresor’s pain, I really do. I work for someone who seems to go out of her way to add to the thousand injuries and insults each day. Every day, it’s another papercut, another nick, another razor thin slice out of my skin. I would like to say that I bear all of this with grace and equanimity. I don’t. I’m no martyr. I find it difficult to turn the other check or grin and bear it. In the military, we say “shutup and color.” But I don’t like coloring in the first place and I definitely don’t color within any lines!
You see, unlike Montresor, I remember every injury and insult that I receive. I replay them in my head, I write them down in my memory. I think of retorts and rebuttals. I share them with anyone who will listen. Can you believe what he said to me? Why would he act that way? I never know exactly why people do the things they do, but I do know how I react to it.
Crying is not my first reaction to hurt — anger is. My anger is bold and flamboyant; it is utterly reckless and hotter than burning oil. My anger is a bandaid that disguises and hides the pain from others, but does little to alleviate the actual hurt. And through that anger, I understand Montresor’s drive for revenge.
There’s a Fortunato (or 3) in every person’s life. Someone who is oblivious to the wreckage and carnage they are causing to others. That one person who gets under your skin just so. You know that person who, in the words of my father, “throws rocks and hides their hand?” What does one do with the Fortunato’s in one’s life? Entombing them alive and burning them to death might be a bit excessive — not to mention immoral and illegal, but seriously, how does one handle awful people??
I generally see their awfulness and raise them with some angst and discontent. I open my mouth and burn every bridge within arm’s reach. And if I find the person particularly awful, I will go “all in” with my anger. I mean how else will they understand the true nature of their sins unless I show them how it feels?
You would think that giving someone else a taste of their own medicine would be delightful, and it is to some extent– but only at first. After some time (about 2 days for me), it becomes exhausting– I can’t maintain that level of dislike for so long. And then stressful. And then I start to hate the person that I am becoming. Because I’m not really like that. It’s only in this situation with this particular person.
But after awhile it’s no longer an external fight– I become the person that I have been pretending to be in that particular situation with that particular person. And suddenly all my energy and time is spent trying to keep this person from imploding my life.
I think that’s why the Bible constantly warns us against giving in to anger. It’s deleterious effects are like a far-reaching communicable disease– it takes down everything in its path. That’s why we are to “overcome evil with good,” because ultimately fighting evil with evil just breeds more evil.
I’ve learned a lot in this past year about dealing with the Fortunatos in my life; the top four being:
1. I am Fortunato. As awesome as I may appear to be, there is someone (or several someones) who don’t care for me at all; people who have been hurt and injured (intentionally or unintentionally) by some action on my part.
2. Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle~ Philo
Life is hard and sometimes downright awful. It’s like the aftermath of a horrible plane crash where we all survived, but everyone is hurt and is stumbling around looking for help.
3. God sees everything. When someone is lying about you and backstabbing and treating you like crap- remember that they will have to give an account for how they treated you. Also remember you will be held accountable for how you respond to them! Vengeance is mine, I will repay says The Lord.
4. Some people are just jerks. Breathe in, breathe deep, and let it go.