Remember the scene in Emma when Mr. Knightly scolds our eponymous heroine for her tactless diarrhea of the mouth at the Box Hill picnic? Apparently, the “Box Hill debacle” is the subject of literary commentary that analyzes various levels of gossip (I stopped reading after the fifth level) that I may or may not have the inclination to one day investigate fully. But the point is that I hate this scene, if only because it reminds me that I’ve been on the receiving end of “badly done.” I double-HATE the feeling of disappointing the one I love most, probably because it usually means I have to admit that I’m wrong. Ugh.
I don’t have chronic diarrhea of the mouth, but when I slip up occasionally, it can be disastrous. After it’s too late to take it back, the Mr. Knightly in my life gently reminds me of my error, and I experience the following phases on the path to recovery:
1) “I Hate You-You Are So Completely Out of Line!” Phase, during which I momentarily fantasize about buying a one-way plane ticket to one of two places: Ittoqqortoormiit, Greenland because it’s the most remote place I can think of, and since I have never actually mentioned it, he would never suspect it, OR, my parents’ house, which is in an equally remote locale in Alaska. This phase is short lived, but immediately transitions to the next phase, the duration of which has historically lasted five minutes to 12 hours.
2) “I Still Hate You And I’m Done Making You Sandwiches!” Phase. In this stage, I make a mental checklist of things I do to make his life that much easier/more enjoyable—make lunch, go to work, refrain from feeding the squirrels, fold laundry—and resolve to quit doing all those things.
3) The “Remember The Time You Did _________ And I Didn’t Say Anything Critical About It Whatsoever” Phase can’t be helped at this point. I should just skip this phase and go to the next one, but when my pride is fragile, it’s inevitable. I try to recall my mental catalog of his faults and congratulate myself for not having any of those problems.
4) On a good day, I can go from phase 1 to phase 4 within half an hour. Phase 4 is “Hmm, Maybe You Were On To Something,” and I warm up to the possibility that perhaps I deserved to be put in my place after all.
5) When I hit the “Ok, I Really Do Love You” Phase, code for, “I Don’t Want To Live With My Parents,” I’m ready to apologize and make his sandwiches again.
You would think that cycling through these phases for years would make me more sensitive when, for once in a thousand years, it’s my turn to gently remind him that something he did/said was “badly done.” But I’m not. And I’d like to be better.
So I found this from one of my all time favorite messages of Marvin J. Ashton:
Perhaps the greatest charity comes when we are kind to each other, when we don’t judge or categorize someone else, when we simply give each other the benefit of the doubt or remain quiet. Charity is accepting someone’s differences, weaknesses, and shortcomings; having patience with someone who has let us down; or resisting the impulse to become offended when someone doesn’t handle something the way we might have hoped. Charity is refusing to take advantage of another’s weakness and being willing to forgive someone who has hurt us. Charity is expecting the best of each other.
Most of us are already well aware of the areas in which we are weak. What each of us does need is family, friends, employers, and brothers and sisters who support us, who have the patience to teach us, who believe in us, and who believe we’re trying to do the best we can, in spite of our weaknesses.
And guess what? I’m teaching Relief Society on Sunday, which is hilarious, because the title of the lesson is “The Power of Kindness.”
How do you handle criticism from loved ones, or from anyone in general? Why is it so hard?!