In the Film Sophie’s choice, Meryl Streep is sent to Auschwitz with her two children, a girl and a boy. As she arrives, her beauty is noticed by the enemy a German officer who seems to fancy her. As she is trying to “bargain” her salvation by “redeeming” herself, the enemy asked her to choose which one of her […]
In the Film Sophie’s choice, Meryl Streep is sent to Auschwitz with her two children, a girl and a boy. As she arrives, her beauty is noticed by the enemy a German officer who seems to fancy her. As she is trying to “bargain” her salvation by “redeeming” herself, the enemy asked her to choose which one of her children she would like to save. As Sophie is crying in despair and pleading that she cannot make such a choice, the officer commands that both children be taken. Sophie eventually chose to sacrifice her little girl. In the end, she will lose both of her children and the guilt of her choice will plague her life forever.
I saw Sophie’s choice as I was a young teenager and was deeply marked by the movie and this scene which has been in my mind ever since as an enigma whose meaning forever escaped me. What Sophie should have told her enemy? What was the best attitude to adopt in such a case. Were there a way out when confronted by the enemy?
I eventually got the answer years later after being through circumstances that forced me to change my thinking and behaviour when I had to deal with an “enemy” who gave me an impossible choice.
An answer can be found in the very famous and largely mis-interpretated teaching of the Bible “Turn the other cheek” (Matthieu 5:38). I had never understood or even agree with the usually accepted interpretation of this passage that if somebody causes you harm, hurts you, you shall accept and answer peacefully. Actually, there is more to it than an obvious acceptance and submission.
When somebody physically hurts you, the most obvious reaction is to fight back, that is if your physical condition and strength allow it. If a colleague insults you or unfairly accuses you, then you will defend yourself by responding/debating on the exact same topic he accused you of. As you are doing so, you have already submitted your power to the other’s conditions. You are responding and feeding his/her perception and even paranoia of the situation.
Behind any aggression or wrong doing there is a pain to identify, it can be insecurity, fear, anger, sadness jealousy, the list goes on. When facing an aggression, pause and see the driving emotion behind the words or the behaviour. Use your human ability of compassion to distance yourself and clearly see what is at stake in the other’s attitude. Whatever the arguments he/she is facing you with, remember they are only the symptoms of a deeper issue, often personal to “the enemy”.
If unsure of the reason why somebody is “attacking” you, it is best, whenever possible, to share the situation with somebody who is not emotionally involved and can help you identify the real motivation behind the enemy’s behaviour.
Identifying the pain will help not to answer the insult and set you free from the frame, the context defined by the “enemy”. Instead of stepping into the part set up by your aggressor, you become an observer and detached yourself from the whole matter. More, whenever, you react directly to the perceived unfair situation, you are actually giving it more energy, power and credibility.
Never follow the aggressor in his logic but act unexpectedly with compassion: Go out of the frame, the context designed by the “enemy”. Stay within the boundaries of your values and beliefs on the more general subject really at stake. Not reacting to the other also means that your answer will not be manipulated by the ‘enemy’s issue but essentially driven by your values, belief and dignity.
Learning how to deal with adversity or the enemy starts here with OHM: subscribe for free to get access to a practical step by step instructions for adversity and be on your best behaviour .Change your experience, be authentic, true to yourself and overcome the challenges.
In the case of Sophie, my belief is she could have answered in a totally unexpected way. When asked by the enemy which of her two children she wanted to sacrifice, she could have stepped out of the trap set up by the officer and offer to sacrifice herself instead. Staying within her values and beliefs may have saved her and her family. My advice watch the movie.
Aude is an ex corporate Lawyer with a passion for health, self development and independence which lead her to give up her former career to help others through health.
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