|Do people see you as a compass when they're lost?|
This week, I had a lot of material I could've written about, but I think what stood out most was a conversation that changed my life. I realized, so powerful was the talk, that it took priority over anything else that's happened currently.
I've been thinking and re-thinking and overthinking what I should have done when the City Attorney swore in open court - but not loud enough for the judge to hear. A part of me wishes that I stopped the judge from talking and brought it to his attention. But on the other hand, I knew that my adversary was already in turmoil and torture; I mean, his face started twisting up, his eye started twitching, and he was walking with a limp. To have put more pressure on him would have not only seemed cruel, but it could've changed me too and made me a more callous person.
I mean, in some ways, I would hope that having the judge intervene and shame him, may have stopped him from employing some of his tactics, potentially ending a prolonged battle sooner than later. Also, I am fully aware that if my adversary had the same chance I did, he would punish me with impunity. Machiavelli, the Renaissance philosopher and adviser, stated in The Prince, "Never do any enemy a small injury for they are like a snake which is half beaten and it will strike back the first chance it gets." (Modern translation.) What it means is that you're supposed to destroy your enemy completely, or else, the first chance he gets, he'll seek revenge. Nonetheless, it made me wonder, what kind of person do I'd become if I did that? I was once reminded, in fighting the enemy, make sure you don't become like him.
Now, it wasn't my self-questioning that changed my life. It was a discussion I had with one of my mentors. I brought the question to him, explained the tension of what was at stake, and asked him, "What should I have done?"
His first response was, "You know, that's a tough question." He understood the problem of wanting to end what seems like a never ending battle but at the price of losing one's sense of mercy for others.
He thought about it. Then he said, "You did the right thing. Remember, you're a professional. You're above all of that. Don't let him drag you to his level."
In that short moment in time and space, I could feel that he had such high expectations of me, and I could feel that they were so great, that he would be disappointed if I behaved any other way. Those are the memories that change you forever.
The conversation had me thinking all week. It hit on a few points. First, it made me realize what professionalism means. The root word is "profess." The two parts are "pro" - meaning forward, and "fess" - meaning confession or oath. The three traditional professions are clergy, doctor, and lawyer because they required that the "professional" state a public oath to do his or her duty to God in serving humanity - whether that be in saving a person's soul, saving a person's body, or administering justice. And although we no longer make a vow to God, lawyers are still required to swear an oath to serve justice and the Constitution.
The second thought I had was the purpose of conversations. The root word of conversation is convert. Convert means to change. And real conversations change people, their hearts, minds, and value. It made me wonder if I'm having enough conversations that are getting people to think and reflect and change too.
The third thought I had was how would the world look like, if everyone had someone in their corner, holding them to such high character expectations. How would our society be, if esteemed people held others to such expectations, the kind of expectations that the simple sentence of "Remember, you're a professional. You're above all that," impacts you so greatly, reminding you of what is required of you and reminding you of what you promised long ago to an ancient profession, which is meant to serve humanity?
So, I'm here to tell you, I don't hold lawyering as the end all and be all. You, too, have a duty to honor your own calling - no matter how small or great it appears. If you're a student, your calling is to be a scholar - and to provide insight for humanity. If you're teacher, then it is to pass on knowledge to a future generation. And if you're a mechanic, then it is to be a craftsman to engineer machines that serve your customer. Your work, even though you may not believe it, has virtue, and therefore, be virtuous in what you provide and how you conduct yourself. I believe you can meet those standards.
Now, that doesn't mean you or I won't make mistakes. I certainly have. My blog has shown that. I don't hide that. When you make a mistake, get back up. In the battle to stand strong, I hope you can remind yourself of the lessons in this letter, which reminds you of who you are and where you need to be. This is the knowledge being passed onto me.