Coward's choicesAug 12th, 2008 | By Ian Poulton | Category: Ministry
Repressed emotions are a simple choice. It is easier to repress emotions than to deal with their consequences. I spend hours avoiding confrontations.
I pondered a story I have told before, both here and in church
When I was a curate – there was a woman who terrified me (in fact there were a number who terrified me, but this one was especially terrifying).
She would attack me without warning about all sorts of things, she had an explosive temper. She lived with an old friend she had known for years in a flat on the edge of the town. The friend was in poor health and the address was on the parish list for regular visits. I dreaded visiting and being harangued about everything. If I saw the lady in the shopping centre I would go to the flat and put a card in the door!
One day, it was my turn to visit them, and, with a heavy heart and in fear and trepidation, I arrived at the flat. The front door was wide open and there was shouting coming from inside. I couldn’t pretend they were out and creep away.
I peered into the flat. The lady was walking backwards and forwards shouting wildly and her friend was sitting in a chair looking bewildered and distressed. Taking a very deep breath, I knocked at the door and asked if all was well.
There had been an incident. The lady had gone to the sub-post office in the estate in which they lived and had been involved in a serious disagreement with the man in charge.
They had argued across the counter, then he had tried to lock her into the shop while he called the police. She had gone out to her car and he had run after her; whereupon she had driven the car up the pavement at him and he had finished lying across her bonnet.
She was sure that the police had by now been called as the man had then run back into the sub post office.
I was 27 years of age at the time and I had received no training in the handling of cross and murderous ladies.
Summoning up all my courage I decided I must take action. ‘I think’, I said,’ we should go to the police barracks – now’.
We drove into the town and presented ourselves at the police barracks. I found it a frightening experience and I wasn’t even in trouble. There seemed to be a series of interviews with various officers. Finally, there was a quietly spoken inspector who said that if I would write to him and outline the circumstances, particularly her distress at her friend’s illness and the lady’s bad tempers, it would help the situation.
The man from the post office had not been injured, it seemed that he had thrown himself across the bonnet. No charges were pressed and the lady became very different in her attitude.
A few months later her lifelong friend died; one of my abiding memories was the Holy Communion service we had at the bedside. The terrifying lady returned to her home county. Sometime later, after I had moved on to another parish, she wrote a lovely letter to me, changed completely from the person who had frightened me so much.
I wonder, now, if I would have avoided the lady as I had in those times, only meeting the real person because of the death of her friend. I fear the answer is ‘yes’.