Thursday, July 26, 2007

What’s your reaction when someone unknowingly inserts a huge high-heeled foot into her mouth when talking to you? My gut reaction is an ugly little feeling that wants to speak words that will make that person feel like an idiot worm. Nice, huh? Polite too! Right.

For instance, “That kid just has a really funny look—big bug eyes and a wide mouth--he looks like an alien. (Confidingly)--You know he has some kind of syndrome or something. He’s just weird. Bless his heart.” Doesn’t that make you want to lie and blurt, “My husband was born with three eyes, 12 fingers and pointy ears, and he had to have multiple operations, but not before other kids made fun of him constantly, so badly traumatizing him that he couldn't stop wetting his bed until just last week,” and watch her backpedal as fast as she can? “Really? I’m so sorry, etc, etc.” And then maybe you gently (or guiltily) counter with "No, not really, but what if?"

It is sobering to me how quickly a person’s true thoughts and attitudes come out in speech. You may have met someone 5 minutes ago, and already you can pick up that they are prejudiced or self-centered or lazy or uncaring—the list can go on. All by what they say and the way it is said.

I know I have stepped on more than my fair share of toes. How embarrassing. And how awful to know that what I say can reveal something ugly that’s in my heart, and that that ugliness can hurt someone else deeply even without me even knowing it.

5 comments:

joy said...

Good reminder to watch what we say. And I must confess that I also have evil urges to embarrass people who are rude, to make them feel bad. Yeah, not so nice.

Carrie said...

Joyce, please tell me someone did NOT say that to you, because I have all sorts of furious nose-punching adrenaline racing through my body right now. You are very self-aware to relate that back to a reminder for yourself, but as an onlooker, I want to say things WAY more directly to that woman than what you hypothesized. That sort of comment just ANGERS me!!!!! Who SAYS something like that?!?!?! You know, it’s one kind of emotional sacrifice to overlook a personal offense, but when it pertains to your child…the protective mama lion roars. What IS the Godly, loving response in that sort of situation? My first impulses are certainly NOT the above, so help me God...

Heather said...

Amen Carrie....I don't even know you....but I could not have said it better myself. I 2nd everything you said!

Cottonista said...

Actually, someone did say that to me, but the comment was about someone else's child--that we both vaguely know. I think the child's historically poor behavior (and the parents' failure to effectively stop it) may have played into her remarks. I didn't address it. Maybe I was too chicken. Maybe I didn't realize the opportunity. Maybe I didn't want to come off looking like a hoity-toity jerk and be labeled as goody-two-shoes for the rest of the event.

It seems pretty rare to find someone who truly can empathize with a child (or parent of a child) who is less than genetically perfect or who even has a learning disability. Honestly, I used to struggle with that myself, and it was mainly because I had no way to identify.

Of course, you can go to the other extreme on this issue too. You could ooh and ahh all over the child in a wheelchair that you see in the grocery store, literally choking on yourself to talk about how SPECIAL, SPECIAL, SPECIAL he/she is, and totally ignore the siblings and the parents who are looking at you like YOU'RE the really odd one.

I know some people choose to be very easily offended. I try hard not to be. I guess what I can pull away from this is to evaluate what's in my heart, be careful what I say, and then not take myself too seriously.

Krista said...

I think a good way to measure what we say, is if we would feel comfortable saying it in front of the person. I don't think that woman would have made those comments in front of the mother or the child. So, therefore, it should be inappropriate. Now, your response, Carrie and Joyce, would have perhaps been appropriate because it would have addressed the issue and would have been to her face. I catch myself saying something sometimes to someone, and then being embarrassed or worried that somehow they might repeat it to the person I said it about. Tongues are horrible things sometimes, but make us feel so warm and fuzzy, too. Thanks for the thoughts, Joyce.