If I had withdrawn $500 from my bank account and was berated by a stranger the following day for doing so, I would have asked myself two questions: one—how did he know about the withdrawal, if I had never even met him, and, two—how did it affect him? Perhaps it underscores a concept we should all consider more seriously. But it usually takes a few of life’s wake up calls before we remember what that concept is. Here is how my memory was prodded.
A pleasant face and a positive demeanor were the externally apparent traits which Darren, a new employee in my company, carried into the door on his first day to work. Attracted to his sense of humor, which invariably improved my own mood, I befriended him, and always enjoyed having lunch or coffee with him, along with a few laughs. Apparently, that external facade camouflaged an internal one, which, in retrospect, was the diametric opposite of it, but which no one, other than myself, seemed to perceive.
Appointed with the task of creating the monthly work schedule not long after he started, he did so with efficiency—until that “efficiency” had established a foundation of trust—at which time his honesty began to dissolve. It was only with careful study that I one day realized its unfairness–namely, that employees with far more seniority were not receiving their rightly days off and function assignments. I had become such good friends with this allegedly jovial soul, however, that I could not bring myself to mention it. That could well have been part of the strategy. Besides, the injustices had not been done to me. As for the others, I could only observe that they had been so caught in the web of superficial humor knit round them that they could not see its boundaries.
Watching the water dissolve the soap suds on the dishes in my girlfriend’s sink one evening, I had an eerie feeling that the initial—and very positive—impression I had had of Darren was equally—and just as rapidly—dissipating.
“I just can’t believe how deceived I was by him,” I ultimately shared.
Squeezing the sponge, she asked, “You mean about that new employee you mentioned? What was his name?”
“Darren,” I inserted in the blank. “I just can’t put two-and-two together. On the one hand, he’s so nice and friendly and funny, yet on the other, he seems a little deceiving and dishonest. I just can’t put my finger on it.”
She shot me a glance, which seemed to pierce a truth only she saw. “Hmm,” she pondered, as I massaged a bowl with a dishtowel.
Set in motion, Darren’s flip-side personality became perpetual, forging a path of deception whose tracks were quickly covered by his allegedly sincere and good-natured façade. Apparently so adept at negotiating life with this dual-personality syndrome, he seemed able to sense even a glimmer of a person’s recognition of it, and he immediately and verbally counteracted it with an attention-diverting statement or thought-nullifying joke.
He slipped into a pattern of arriving late at work, causing others to temporarily assume his duties until he appeared. If anyone asked, “Where’s Darren?” it was inevitably fielded with one of his jokes and a chuckle. “He’s so funny to have around,” they would counter.
If he were unable to arrange the work schedule to his advantage, particularly on sliding holidays, he would call in sick, requiring a replacement. That replacement was usually someone who had looked forward to his off-day and the leisure event he had planned for it.
When his boss once expressed doubts about his coincidental illness on one such holiday, he projected a beam of “sincerity” into him, angelically claiming, “This is life. People can and do get sick.”
“But on a holiday,” his boss would press. “It seems a little fishy to me.”
Elevating his halo, he would continue, “Do you think a tiny little virus knows what day it is? Do you think it knows if it’s a Wednesday or a Saturday or a holiday?”
Replacing doubt with reason, his boss would re-establish his foundation of trust, while Darren would release a few staccato coughs, and then bulls-eye the boss’s sense of humor with a joke. Good old, lovable Darren, he must have concluded.
Like a sponge, I absorbed his deception and conartistry until I became saturated, and I knew of no better place than my girlfriend’s lap in which to pour it.
I rubbed my eyes, as if they were tired of seeing one thing, but being led to believe another, accelerating on the parkway. The cool autumn breeze, drawn through the car’s half-open window, provided a moment of refreshing relief.
“I just don’t believe it,” I exclaimed! “How can someone with such an outwardly, happy-go-lucky and funny personality be so deceiving—as if he had two personalities. And how can he pull the wool over the whole office’s eyes?”
She pursed her lips in contemplation. “But you see through it all?”
As if I had been the only one who had, I exclaimed, “Hell, yes! If I haven’t made that clear by now, I don’t know when I will.”
Waving it off, she agreed, “I know, I know,” and then, after a pause, asked in a softer tone, “But you wouldn’t feel comfortable saying anything?”
I shook my head. “No-no. First of all, these things weren’t done to me. Second of all, I would feel like a rat or a snitch. He’s supposed to be my friend. Third of all, I’m not in management. It’s not my place to point these things out.”
“You weren’t in management,” she corrected, referring to my promotion last week and the reason for tonight’s celebration.
“Yeah, but those things weren’t done under my watch. I was just a rank-and-file employee at the time. Besides, how would I look to those under me now if the first thing I did was report all the infractions I saw as their equal? No way to build trust as a new manager.”
“Hmm,” she agreed.
Riding out the remainder of my anger, I vented, “But how can someone be like this—so two-faced? On the one hand, he seems so nice and funny and sincere—and on the other, he makes a jerk out of everyone, using them and taking advantage of them. And nothing is done! How can he give all this out, as if he has no conscience—yet, nothing comes back to him?”
“Oh, it will,” she proclaimed.
Jerking my head to the right, I asked, “What do you mean, ‘it will?’ Do you know him or something? Are you in on this?”
“Yes and no,” she returned. “I mean, no and yes.”
“What? What’re you talking about?” I spat back.
Pointing to the windshield, she instructed, “Ju-Just look at the road and drive . Let’s get there first. And-and there’s the turn-off, right up ahead.”
“We have to discuss this, you know.”
Nodding, she promised, “We will—later.”
Get there we did. Discuss it we didn’t.
Having always had an aversion to early-morning activities, I particularly disliked Mondays, when the weekly junior management meetings, scheduled an hour before the company’s doors opened, unleashed a shower of financial statistics on us. But today was Thursday.
Habitually, I settled into my nest—the third seat on the right side of the board table—and awaited the bleak outlook. But the boss, placing his agenda on the polished, walnut surface, pronounced, like a verdict, “You may or may not know, but Darren was let go at the close of the operation yesterday—terminated for cause.”
My eyes bounced from one to the other like pinballs scoring bells, but failed to encounter a single expression of recognition or understanding. Could this, after all, be his just reward, I wondered?
“May I ask what the cause was,” I inquired with hesitation?
Glaring at me, the boss unleashed his bullet. “Stealing,” he succinctly stated!
Stealing, I thought. The man wasn’t exactly high on my admiration list—in fact, the more I observed, the more inflated became my disdain—but I honestly did not think that he was capable of an act that low.
“And you have evidence of him committing this crime?” I probed.
“We have evidence of company funding hidden in his desk and witnesses who saw him put it there.”
“He actually confessed to it?”
“He denied every bit of it,” the assertive voice returned. “But the evidence we have speaks for itself.”
Again, a sixth sense dictated otherwise, but I was neither in a position to refute the allegations nor had I been a witness who could have confirmed them.
“I just can’t believe the whole thing came to a crashing halt today,” I said at dinner with my girlfriend that evening, shaking my head.
Spooning grated cheese on her pasta, she triumphantly responded, “I can.”
“Why do you keep saying that?” I spat back. “And when I asked you the other night if you knew Darren and were you in on this, you answered, ‘yes.’”
Nodding, she explained, “Yes, but so are you.”
Dropping the fork on the plate and expelling air, I protested, “Oh, come on! What are you getting at?”
“The truth—the one that everyone seems to forget.”
“Truth about what?” I fired back.
“Just connect the dots,” she pressed while reaching for a breadstick. “This Darren—and I don’t know him—rearranged a work schedule for his advantage; came late to work, leaving others to take up his duties; called in sick; connived; and downright lied…”
“And this is the truth everyone forgot? I told you all this!”
“No, that’s not the truth I’m talking about. The real truth came out in the end when he seemed to be the victim of his very behavior—targeted for something even you don’t think he was really capable of.”
Before I could finish the thought, she continued, “It’s a little like making a deposit in your bank account. If you put $100 in it, it will be available for you to take out later—probably with interest—in other words, good breeds more good. If, on the other hand, you make a bad deposit to it, you can only look forward to a bad withdrawal.”
Running my bread through the tomato sauce, I looked at her with a furrowed brow. “I don’t understand what this has to do with Darren and the bad things he did.”
“That’s because you have forgotten the truth. The truth is that we all come from the same source—the same whole. Only here on earth, in physical form, do we have an identity, a personality, a name—individuality. But in eternity we are all one—as if we were a collective bank account. Whatever you deposit in it affects us all, because we all share it. Whatever you do, you create. If you constantly make bad deposits into it, that whole will respond with exactly that. That’s why I say you and I and everyone else was a part of his actions, even though we’re not aware of this fact, because we’re all a part of the whole he did it to.”
Crunching on a breadstick, I looked at her, as if I saw a realm of her beingness I had never known existed.
“Do you think the ‘whole’ in my office, so-to-speak, really saw all he the things he did and planted a entire trap, like a frame job, putting the money in his desk and claiming that they witnessed him putting it there?”
“I don’t know,” she responded. “I wasn’t physically there. But you can now see why he ‘got his.’ In time, he received exactly what he created. It was inevitable—and the very laws of the universe. He gave out injustices—to people who didn’t deserve them—and, in the end, he got the same injustices back. Bad deposit, bad withdrawal.”
Swallowing the breadstick, I looked toward the ceiling, sensing, by a means still unknown to me, a collective spirit above me, which I had somehow long forgotten.