Daily Archives: September 9, 2013

Monday Motivator: No One Believes He or She Is the Toad

I’m reading Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel. It’s the story of Henry VIII’s attempts to put aside his first wife Katherine and marry Anne Boleyn. Now this is a story that has been told many times before, but Mantel relates the events through the eyes of Thomas Cromwell. 

History has not been terribly kind to Cromwell. He has been portrayed as the toadying working-class courtier who was willing to do the back-room deals to make sure Henry got what he wanted. And was not above applying force when necessary. No one is terribly upset to find that he too made the King mad and ended up on the executioner’s block.

But Mantel portrays a different Cromwell, one who was enlightened and truly felt that the Catholic church had no place in running governments, one who was loyal to Cardinal Wolsey despite the personal risk, and one who would much rather encourage people to change their minds than torture and execute them.

So which interpretation is correct? I have no idea, but reading the novel reminded me that none of us believes we’re the toad of our own stories. I’m sure Cromwell thought he was doing the right and rational thing. And I’m sure Thomas More, who certainly had no compunction about torturing those he suspected as heretics, also saw himself as the hero of the story. 

It is easy when we’re in the midst of arguments and controversies and unsettled times to assign negative motives to those on the other side. But it may be worth a moment to remember that those folks feel as passionate and noble as you do, just on the opposite side of the fence.

And they see themselves as anything but toads, but may suspect they hear a little croaking from you 🙂