Stella Leventoyannis Harvey

Knowing and Doing the Right Thing        

There is a website entitled, Ancient Greek Battles which catalogues ageless Spartan stories and any resulting quotes. I’m not into battles, ancient or otherwise. Usually I stumble onto a site by accident when I’m searching for background information for the novel I’m working on or to find a quote that might inspire my work forward.

In one particular story noted on this website, an old man went to the Olympic games and couldn't find a place to sit down. As he went from one area to the next, he met with insults. No one would make room for him. Then he came to the Spartan section. The boys and many of the men rose and offered him a place to sit. Seeing this, the other Greeks applauded, commending the actions of the Spartans. The old man shook his head and said, “It seems that all of Greece knows what is the right thing to do, but it is only the Spartans that do anything about it.”

This made me think of a clash (nothing like those of ancient Greece) I had with a friend not long ago. She did, or rather, she said something to me, in that lofty-I-know-better-than-you tone that immediately got my back up. I won’t go into details, but suffice to say, I detest that air of superiority. It gets to me every single time. I rarely behave the way I know I should when I’m forced into a corner.

And by ‘gets to me’, I mean I don’t react rationally when I feel threatened or belittled. I pace, and rethink all that was said. I can’t sleep. I think of the smart things I should have said and certainly will say the next time I see her. This rage may last for several days, clouding all reason.

With some distance, my head eventually does clear. First, I place all the blame squarely on her shoulders. Yes, I know, I’ve moved forward leaps and bounds since that initial anger. You know I’m kidding. Right?

In this phase, I wonder, for example, why she’d approach me in the manner in which she did. I think about how much more could have been accomplished if she would have simply used a bit of discretion, finesse and said, “How can we make this happen together? I really need your help.” For those of you who know me or who have followed my blog, you know the impact those five last words in the previous sentence have on me. I’m putty at the mere hint of those words.  

More time passes. I catch myself thinking about the incident and reliving it, touching it tentatively as I might a bruise. Yup, it’s still sore. It’s at this point, I start to regret the lost opportunity to improve the relationship, accomplish something together that might have been greater than our individual efforts could achieve. I relive the situation over and over again. It could have turned out differently if I’d done better.

That’s easy to see in hindsight. I’m like those Greeks in the ancient story of Sparta. I know the right thing to do, but I can’t find it in me to do it at times.


Greek Battle Image 2

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