Could this be the worst thing ever to hear anyone say to you? I’ll see you in court.
I have three stories.
This is my first.
For me, I have a personal experience of having been in court once before. It isn't a happy memory. I wasn't even on trial, just a witness, giving testimony. I remember the solemnity in the air, the cold courtroom and the depressing attire of the lawyers and the unsmiling face of the judge. It's not something I would ever want to experience again, not if I can help it.
Twenty years ago and yet it's still fresh in my mind. It was a simple, straightforward case and when my lawyer told me we lost, I was a little disappointed. In fact, I just thought to myself that it's over now and I'll move on. My brilliant lawyer, however, decided we would appeal. I wasn't interested. I felt that we gave it a shot, lost and now it's time to forget it. I did not want to go through it all again. Still he pressed on and said the magic words that changed my mind. He said, "You don't have to be present". Well he said many things to me like I had nothing to lose and that I'd never know if I could have won if I didn't give it another go. He insisted that I would be exactly where I was and nothing would change if I lost again but he highlighted what it would mean, if I won. However, the clincher was that I didn't have to be there.
For that reason, he appealed and we won. I got, what I thought was, a sizable amount paid to me in compensation. It restored my faith in the words "right is might".
On my own, I would not have taken up that fight. Why? Well, we are not big wigs! I feel that unless you are some big shot with loads of spare cash, then you can afford to go to court. Therefore, I am blessed to know a great lawyer, who I consider a good friend, and who was willing to stand by me with the assurances I had needed.
Do we take all our grievances to court? No, most times we can just settle it with just a confrontation.
This brings about my second story.
Also about 20 years ago, a girlfriend of mine hurt me deeply. She organised an outing with her boyfriend (my husband's mutual friend) and another woman. Her boyfriend then called my husband with the pretext that he needed advice and wanted to meet up. So my husband joined him. My husband came home early and the look on his face told me he had something to say. He surely did. He said that my girlfriend and her boyfriend had brought a friend for him to make a foursome. Somewhat like a blind date for my husband. My girlfriend told him not to tell me but he said, "You should know me better than that".
Well, you can imagine my disappointment at such an act of betrayal by my friend. If not for my husband telling me about it, I would not have known at all.
In any case, I called up my girlfriend the next morning. I asked her if she had had a great time the night before and she knew that I knew. She tried to sideline the issue but I went straight for the jugular. I told her that she just threw away years of friendship for a couple of hours of fun. I asked her if she really thought that my husband would keep it from me and if she really believed I would never find out. I also asked if she thought it was worth it now. I never really gave her a chance to explain. She was deathly silent. I knew she was shocked by my confrontation. In that instant, our friendship dating back to primary school days went dead. I didn't want to know of her or anything about her again.
The next morning, a huge bouquet of the most beautiful roses arrived at my doorstep, with a card from both of them. I put the flowers next to the TV and kept looking at the card and thinking about why people do wicked things and expect that it could be made “okay” with flowers and an apology. When my husband got home, he saw the flowers and asked me if I had accepted the apology. I looked at him and said "no". I couldn't be friends with someone who did not respect my marriage.
Yet, years later, I got over the hurt, and the outrage I felt, and I have forgiven, and I had almost forgotten it until this week. We are friends again and no mention of the past has been necessary. Why harbour such a negative emotion?
This brings me to my third and final story.
How far would you go to protect your family? I think that for most of us, we won't really know until we have to face it.
I can take gossip. They are meaningless and spiteful. I am probably guilty of it myself, at times. I can even take rumours. They are usually baseless and eventually die a natural death.
When it goes beyond a gossip and a rumour, and appears to be defamation of character, can we do something?
Do we just have to accept that malicious lies can be repeated to "God only knows how many other people"?
When do we decide that it's enough? I know.
It's enough and should be stopped when words falsely said of a person implies that criminal intent was present.
I'm not a lawyer. Most of you already know that. Yet even cursory glances at websites show me that I have a right to feel that I have been wronged. People, who make these kinds of statements or write them, have to be accountable.
The strange thing about the internet is that it can be a tool used for or against you. Once you put something up in cyberspace, you can't ever retrieve it. You cannot know who has made a copy of it or saved it in their hard disk. There are "nuts" who just browse sites and save things for "just in case" and then again, there are “nuts” who put naked pictures of themselves and think that when they remove them, they are now safe. There are also nuts who copy and paste from other people's blogs or magazines and put it as their own work. Tsk! tsk! No shame!!!! There are also “nuts” who think that if they erase it, then it disappears forever from cyberspace. No, it doesn't.
Traces of it are floating around and if Facebook is anything to go by, I'd say that whatever is on your wall space literally belongs to you and becomes your property. Hence, only you can delete it. Or not.
Very recently, I had to make a decision about whether to let go or fight against what I considered an injustice to my family. Not fisticuffs but in a Court of Law! I wouldn’t know if I could win. Maybe what I consider unreasonable is really acceptable behaviour. Maybe people really can say nonsensical stuff and get away with it. I don't know but I was willing to find out, short of a face-to-face apology.
If no apology was forthcoming, I would have gone to see a lawyer. As a citizen of the world, I cannot believe that I am helpless against people who don't hesitate to say whatever they want to say.
Why a lawyer? Well, I believe that if it cannot be solved amicably between the two parties, then a relevant authority must decide. My conscience will not permit me to pretend it didn’t happen. If I lose, I'll have it on good authority that I am overreacting and not because someone said to me, you can't win lah!
For me, it was a 50-50 situation.
I could win. Why not? I have witnesses and evidence.
I could lose. True. I would be right back where I started (minus legal fees).
My heart and my head told me I had to be true to myself. If there is no apology then I will have to see this through, to clear any doubts from my mind that I had done everything humanly possible to protect my family.
Fortunately, this had a happy ending. The person sent me email offering to apologise, on my terms.
Did I accept? I went further than that. I took the email as an admission of that person's guilt and feelings of remorse. It couldn't have been easy to eat humble pie. Yet, the person made the effort. I admire that humility.
For me, for my family, it was enough. We declined the personal apology and as far as we are concerned, it is over.
We are not bullies but we don't want to be bullied either.
What have I learnt from this blog post? I have learnt that I can forgive if I really want to. It is always a matter of choice.