There is a scene in the 1993 movie, A Bronx Tale, where Calogero, a.k.a. C, is on the street chasing down a guy who owes him money. Sonny, the local crime boss, witnesses the scene and calls C over to speak with him. C explains to Sonny that the guy he was chasing, Louie Dumps, owes him $20 and has been dodging him for the past two weeks. Click the image to watch the scene, but here is the gist of the dialogue that follows:
Sonny: Alright. What’s the matter?
C: Louie Dumps owes me $20. It’s been two weeks now and he keeps dodging me.
C: Should I crack him one, or what?
Sonny: What’s the matter? What have I said? Sometimes hurting somebody ain’t the answer. Is he a good friend?
C: Nah, I don’t even like him.
Sonny: Don’t even like him. Well, there’s your answer. Look, it cost you $20 to get rid of him. He’ll never bother you, or ask you for money again He’s out of your life for $20.You got off cheap. Forget it.
That scene and Sonny’s advice resonates with me. We have all come in contact with people who have behaved badly toward us. Maybe, like Louie Dumps, they borrowed something never to return it. Maybe they gossiped about us, didn’t stand up for us, made fun of us, or undermined us in a social situation. Maybe what they did to us was far worse.
Fact is, you can’t control how someone else treats you. But you can control how you react to the treatment. Eleanor Roosevelt said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” I would add that no one can make you feel anything without your consent. Your feelings are just that—yours and yours alone.
I have been guilty many times of letting the bad behavior of others affect me in a negative way. Like C, I have stewed in my own brew, reacting to the actions of someone I honestly don’t even like when I really think about it. I have expended a lot of energy trying to make things right or to prove my point. By doing this, I have given the wrongdoer control of my emotions and way too much power. Better to step back and assess if getting so wound up is worth it and maybe as Sonny says, “forget it.”
By the way—you’ll know who you are if you read this—you can keep the $56.25. I got off cheap.
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Author’s note: Indeed an indelible impression. I wrote a version of this back in January 2010. Still mean it.