One fateful Sunday lunch during high school, my adolescent wilfulness and rebellion had tried the patience of my mother to the point of exhaustion. I was flippant and irritable, and wanted more than anything to NOT be at the family table for dinner. Anything would be better than sitting there with my folks. In spite of all my angst, however, I knew that my parents demanded propriety: I asked to be excused. My mother, frustrated beyond recognition, cut her eyes at me and pronounced “You may leave the table when you have said the following ten times aloud: Beat me, bore me, but never ignore me.” A subsequent marathon-length battle of wills ensued: neither of us was willing to give in. We sat there staring at each other for hours. Dinner plates got cold and crusty. My dad and brother had long left the table and were no doubt indulging in the Sunday-afternoon-after-church nap. Yet we sat. Finally, I mumbled out the phrase the tenth time and fled the scene.
Of course sitting there like that didn’t break my spirit; if anything it escalated my anger exponentially. But I knew better than outright disobedience. In my adult years, I can look back on that incident and laugh and tease my mom about the battle for power/control. But as a teenager, I was livid.
Now as an adult, I’m amused at how often that phrase comes to mind: particularly in moments wherein someone is wrongly lording their power over me. I thought about it during this incident. And more recently, in response to a woman in my local congregation who loves to be on committees and loves to manipulate herself into control. I swear she wins by filibuster, as we are all too sick of her to keep arguing. She wields her ill-gained power like a sharp knife and possesses an amazing ability to cut your throat without you realizing it. She smiles, nodding in feigned comprehension and agreement, as you continue your narrative, and watches the life-force eek from the wound she inflicted. Finally you collapse. She’s left standing, and deems that you were too weak anyway… she is merely thinning the herd.
I can do little about folks willing to manipulate and connive their way into positions of power. But I can sure as hell pay enough attention to flee when I see the flash of the knife.