He stood tall, as his name suggested. Tall-as-a-Tree, respected Sioux warrior, looked out across the plain and took in the air. Conflict was all he could smell. As his forefathers had themselves found, life on the prairie was filled with dangers – many natural like the stormy rain and floods, but others more sinister in the form of Man. And it was Man he could detect on the wind.
Tall-as-a Tree feared no man. Born to a noble family, brought up with wise mentors and physically strong peers, and ultimately carved and weathered by his environment, he was able in combat and sage in judgement. If talking was needed, he could debate with any man. If force was necessary, he was of powerful build and tone. His life was rooted in the lessons of his ancestors both recent and from long ago – hundreds of years of knowledge and experience had been imparted to him, and he had learned his lessons enthusiastically. He had prepared for and easily passed every physical test he was expected to undergo as part of his duties as a warrior; his intellectual capacities in negotiation were well known.
His training had begun when he was barely able to walk and he had mastered the knife, bow and tomahawk. His hunting prowess was known throughout the land. He could hit anything he aimed at and he frequently fed other families with his kills when his own family had enough. He was rich in tribal terms but he was also generous and compassionate.
At the appropriate age and time he took a wife. As the greatest warrior in the tribe he was able to choose her, and she was acknowledged by all to be the most beautiful girl in the village. The celebration was held and happiness reigned throughout when they told everyone that his bride was to have a child; the joy was immeasurably enhanced when a son came to them. In what seemed like no time at all she fell pregnant again.
And he found a lover. A young female from a neighbouring tribe married into their own and she was also beautiful. There was something different and magical and unattainable about her when compared to his own bride, the mother of his children, and he was enamoured. On the night when others were engaged in celebration of his wife’s second pregnancy, they consummated their illicit love, thus betraying his wife and her husband.
Shortly after the birth of his second child, a daughter, there came a time of war. And it was now, as he smelled the air and smelled man that he knew the time had come for a reckoning. In battle there was no guarantee that the greatest warriors would live. Combat with an individual caused him no concern because he was prepared for such a trial. But a stray arrow, overwhelming odds, a fallen horse – anything like that, outside his control or even his awareness, could be the cause of his death. But his heightened awareness, bred through skill and experience, lessened that likelihood, and with this he was content.
It is said that a man sees his life pass before his eyes at the moment of death. Whether it is true of a man that he reviews his life as he prepares for the possibility of death, such as during preparation for battle, is not so clear. But when Tall-as-a-Tree considered his life, his actions and his betrayal, he was suddenly gripped by enormous regret, even guilt. He was seen by his peers as the ultimate male, the one up to whom all men looked for example. And he had failed them, he had compromised his values and he had broken unwritten yet sacred laws that he knew, that they all knew, to be true. The respect in which he was held he also knew was based on a false premise – that he was a good man. He knew he was not. And that ate at him at this crucial moment.
As he rode into battle he doubted himself……..
Do you ever feel like that? If so, accept your flawed action, confess it if you feel it appropriate, then move on with greater dedication to observance of character.