This past weekend, I was reminded of just how much words hurt–even when they weren’t intended to be hurtful.
We had gathered with some of Mr. Keller’s family at his grandparent’s home to enjoy an evening with family along with some pizza. Mr. Keller, the Keller Kids, and I really enjoy these evenings. It’s a wonderful opportunity for the Keller Kids to interact with their grandparents and great-grandparents as well as a chance for them to play with their cousins. Mr. Keller and I also love to catch up with his family, and I love that I don’t have to cook!
It was just after we had finished our dessert that I was reminded how much words hurt. We were discussing how St. Mary’s Church had sponsored a beer and wine tent at our local carnival when someone at the table said she had “never met a good Catholic.” I was a little shocked and stunned given that everyone at the table knew that I was born and raised Catholic so I responded, “hey, that’s my whole family.” Mr. Keller’s mom and grandmother were also quick to chime in that they each knew good Catholics; however, the other person simply responded that she “was sticking with what [she] had said.” At that point, I was so hurt and shocked that all I could say, in a small voice, was “that’s not very nice.”
Truly, I was so hurt that I could barely breathe. I very rarely worry about the opinions of others so when someone says something negative about me, it almost never bothers me, but this–this was directed at my entire extended family. People I’ve known from birth who have done absolutely nothing to deserve to be damned by someone who barely–if at all–knew them.
I had to leave. Normally, Mr. Keller and I stay at these Sunday evening gatherings until it’s pretty late, but I just couldn’t do it. I started putting away our dirty plates and utensils and folding up chairs in absolute silence. Then, I looked at Mr. Keller and said, quietly, “We need to leave. I have to leave.” He could tell that I was upset and agreed. Normally, I have to drag Mr. Keller away from social opportunities, but not that night.
On the way home, I realized that the person who had upset me may not have realized how truly hurtful her statement was. I texted her, letting her know that her statement had been very hurtful and not very Christian-like. After some dialog back and forth, she responded that I was simply making this into too big of a deal; perhaps I was. It’s entirely likely that her initial statement was not meant to hurt anyone at the table, and, perhaps, it wasn’t meant to hurt anyone at all, but her refusal to back down from saying it is what had truly upset me.
Honestly, at this point, it doesn’t matter. What does matter is that this interaction was a learning experience and reminder for me. Words hurt. Whether they are said in a heated argument, offhand, or directly at someone, words hurt.
It’s a reminder to me of how easy it is to say something that hurts another person without ever.having intended to hurt them. I know that I’ve said many many things the wrong way. I know that I’ve hurt people without ever intending to do so, and I know that I’ve reacted the same way that the person who hurt me did. That is, I responded in a way that belittled the other person’s feelings. This interaction last Sunday has served to remind me that whether I intended to or not, if I hurt another person’s feelings with my words, I owe them an apology. No one deserves to feel as helplessly hurt and angry as I did that night, and I hope to never make someone feel that way again.
I think about how much words can hurt when I think about my interactions with my children, too. Just one or two badly worded sentences, and I could really bruise my children’s feelings. They don’t deserve that. Just as importantly, it’s my job to provide the Keller Kids with a good example on how to treat others; I need to be sure that’s what I’m doing. This really served as a wake up call for me!
Every interaction–whether it’s a positive or a negative interaction–with another person is an opportunity to learn. I was reminded of just how much words hurt, and, though I could wish the reminder hadn’t happened, I’m thankful for the opportunity to correct my own actions going forward. I pray that I remember this lesson and that I truly grow into a better person.