I said good-bye to Jim this week. We had lunch and he helped me with a project I am working on and then we talked about his leaving. Jim moved to North Carolina a couple of years ago when he got laid off from his New York law firm. It’s tough to start over when you are in your late fifties and Jim was not able to make an adequate income here in North Carolina because there is simply less need for his specialty here than in New York. So he is going back to take a position with another firm. He is ambivalent about this for a number of reasons. I think he genuinely likes our little meeting and the slower pace of life is also appealing. So he asked me what I really thought of his going back. I told him I understood that he was at a difficult phase—too young to retire and too old to be really attractive to a lot of potential employers. I wished he could stay and still hoped that maybe he would find something appropriate locally, but I know he’s got to find work. Of course going back to New York is not sure thing. With the economy still headed down there are going to be a lot lawyers looking for new jobs in the near future. Then I brought up something I thought was bothering Jim. Didn’t he still feel betrayed by his former employer—the one that fired him in his fifties? I knew beforehand that this was how he felt but I thought it might do Jim some good to talk about it and to have me express my agreement with those feelings.
Betrayal hurts and I think this culture doesn’t generally acknowledge just how deeply it hurts.
Later on the same day I was with another group of people. Someone we hadn’t seen for a few years had dropped in unexpectedly and there was some jovial chatting. Somehow the conversation turned to honesty and one man there bragged that he had nothing to hide or be ashamed of. There must have been at least one raised eyebrow and a short pause until he added a further little joke to the effect of “except for my adulteries but nobody takes that seriously.” This isn’t an exact quote but it was the intended sense. I very briefly considered commenting that perhaps his wife took them seriously and in fact perhaps she even feels betrayed. I didn’t feel as though I should offer such a comment to someone who is not a Quaker and probably wouldn’t think that I should be offering my opinion on such matters. So, I just said good-bye to the group and went home largely because I felt that doing so was expressing my disapproval in an appropriately understated way. It was the second time in one day that I felt called upon to offer a little witness that betrayal is just plain wrong.