Sunday, July 21, 2013

In the Arena 1

I started Richard Nixon's In the Arena: A Memoir of Victory, Defeat and Renewal.  In this post, I'd like to highlight something that Nixon says on pages 32-33:

"I also relied on support from my friends.  When you win from politics, you hear from everyone.  When you lose, you hear from your friends.  After Watergate, it was a miracle that I had as many as I did.  Some came to see me, some called me on the telephone, others wrote encouraging letters.  As good friends, they did not dwell on the tragedy of the past.  Thankfully, they did not express sympathy, for the only thing worse than self-pity is to be the object of pity from others.  They talked only about the good times we had shared in the past and the even better times we could hope to share in the future.  And finally, the mail----the letters from tens of thousands of people from all over the country and the world, most of whom I had never met----played an indispensable role in bucking up my spirits during a difficult time.  I was, of course, unable to read and answer them all.  But it was heartwarming to know that while there was no longer a silent majority, at least the minority which was left was not silent."

I identified with what Nixon said about not liking to be the object of pity from others.  That passage reminded me of something that Nixon said on page 36 of another book that he wrote, Leaders:

"I saw Churchill for the last time in 1958 when I went to London for the dedication of the memorial to the American dead in World War II at St. Paul's Cathedral.  I hesitated to ask for an appointment with Churchill because I knew he had not been well.  But his aide felt that it would be good for him to talk to someone about problems other than his own physical condition.  I had learned long before never to ask a sick man how he feels, because he may tell you.  But many, and this is especially true of leaders, want to talk about the world rather than about themselves.  When I called on John Foster Dulles in his last months when he was dying of cancer at Walter Reed Hospital, I always asked him for his opinions on current foreign policy problems rather than dwelling on how he was feeling.  Mrs. Dulles, his nurse, and his secretary all told me that my visits gave him an enormous boost because they lifted him out of his own desperate troubles."

Speaking for myself, I don't have a great problem with people feeling sorry for me.  Of course I want for people to care about me and whatever I'm going through!  But I usually don't like for people to express their pity or sympathy for me within a social situation.  That may be because I find that to be depressing, or I'm not sure how exactly to respond.  When I am down, I often prefer to discuss topics----such as politics or TV shows----rather than to have to listen to people's sympathy.

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