In episode 9 of ‘The Crown’ on Netflix there is a scene where artist Graham Sutherland has been commissioned to paint the portrait of Sir Winston Churchill as a gift for his 80th birthday.
Winston Churchill wants to see Graham’s work in progress so he offers, “I could give you advice. After all, I know this face better than you do.”
Graham Sutherland refuses to show him the incomplete portrait and responds, “I find in general people have very little understanding of who they are. One has to turn a blind eye to so much of one’s self to get through life.”
This scene came at exactly the time I had just ended texting with a friend. I hadn’t heard from him for awhile. The introductory two words in his four-word message offended me.
I responded by asking him why he would say what he did to me and that I found it insulting. I explained why.
His response: “Be nice. I am just messing.”
I suggested that he take his own advice and be nice because what he was insinuating in his text was not nice. I then said, “If you want to be one of those people that pops up in my life when you are bored then you might try to make it a more positive experience.”
His response: “Good Bye Robyn, omg. When you finish being a bitch let me know.”
My response: “You insulted me and I let you know that you did. Instead of apologizing you called me a bitch.”
His response: “Pretend I never existed. Just trying to be funny and you take it the wrong way again. I am dead to you.”
My response: “It is a very immature way to deal with someone who is only telling you that you made an insulting comment. You could have owned it, accepted responsibility, apologized and learned from it so you don’t make the same mistake to others. A little self-awareness goes a long way.”
His response: “Good luck with your life. When you want to be nice and realize I am just playing let me know. You are the immature one, chill out and relax. Grow up. I was just trying to be funny. Drama queen.”
Although I don’t think he was intentionally trying to hurt me with his comment, he has used similar sentiments to purposely attack me in the past so I was very sensitive to his words. I explained that. He might have made a dig but I was giving him the benefit of the doubt and just told him it was a hurtful comment that was not funny to me.
I have offended people unintentionally, in business and in my personal life. If it is brought to my intention, I feel terrible and it is honestly my heart to do and say what I need to in order to make it right. I don’t blame the person for feeling offended by what I have done or said. I go out of my way to apologize and to hopefully make them feel better about the situation, to know I am genuine, sincere and remorseful in hurting them and I do what I can and need to in order to mend any tear in our relationship.
In the episode of The Crown that I was watching, Sir Winston Churchill hated the portrait when it was revealed. He met with the artist afterwards in private at his Chartwell home where the painting was sent but never hung and called the portrait a “humiliation”. He said it looked like he was “sitting on a chair producing a stool. A broken, sagging, pitiful creature, squeezing and squeezing.” He felt it was “treacherous, an unpatriotic, cowardly assault by the left.”
The prime minister felt it was “a betrayal of friendship”. The artist explained that he took the commission because he greatly admired the PM and came through the experience of painting his portrait admiring him even more. The PM quipped, “Do you make monsters of everyone you admire?” The artist compassionately spoke, “It’s not vindictive. It is art. It is not personal.”
Then the PM did what my friend did after I spoke my truth. Where the artist said it wasn’t personal, the PM made it personal and attacked, “You are a lost soul, a narcissist without direction or …”(he is cut off by Graham Sutherland.)
Mr. Sutherland advised Mr. Churchill to give it time and not to over react. He shared that he showed Lady Churchill, his wife, the sketches during the process and she felt it was accurate. The PM responded: “That is the whole point. It is not a reasonably truthful image of me.” The artist said, “It is sir.” The PM angrily responded, “It is cruel.”
Then Graham Sutherland firmly and directly speaks his truth, “Age is cruel. If you see decay there is decay. If you see frailty it is because there is frailty. I can’t be blamed for what is and I refuse to hide and disguise what I see. If you are engaged in a fight with something then it is not with me. It is with your own blindness.!”
At the end of the episode Sir Winston Churchill is shown burning the portrait. It is reported in history, though, that it was Lady Churchill who destroyed the portrait because of the distress it caused her husband.
Maybe we should all have a commissioned portrait and see if we have the courage to hang it, look at it and recognize ourselves.