Have you ever felt like Merritt in her March 2008 essay?
This is a post by Merritt, who lives with her family near the ocean in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. When not filling out preschool applications, she is a sometimes blogger, an expert tutu maker and very happy mother to her sweet little Stella Clemetine. She is also Brooke’s sister.
Today it happened not once, not twice, but three times. Three times in one day I said the absolute worst thing possible, completely disregarding the feelings of the person I was talking to.
Was it the weather? That I stayed up too late the night before? Maybe it was because I’ve only taken the sacrament once in the last three weeks and I didn’t make it to the temple last month. Or it could be too much stress over this seemingly endless process of applying to preschools! (I know! Stress getting in to a Seattle preschool. Another topic for another day.)
Where did the words come from? I think they were kind of what I was feeling—just not said in the right way. And also not taking in account who I was talking to. Through stress, or fatigue, or weather, or whatever, I didn’t take the 1-2-3 seconds I should have before responding and just blurted out the first thing on my mind.
Mind you, this has been a problem all my life. One of the earliest words I can remember being used to describe me as a child was blunt.
Anyway, what happened next? Well, the Spirit definitely withdrew, and I felt anxiety and sorrow for the possible hurt I caused the targets of my word-bombs. Oh, the power of words. Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me. Oh really? The scar has faded from when a brother threw a rock at my head, but words oh words are sometimes so hard to forget.
I think about times I’ve been hit by a word-bomb and I wonder, how could they say that to me? Don’t they know what I’m going through? Don’t they know what their words do to me? I think in particular of someone whose words after years of praying for the power to forgive, I am still unable to forget.
Then I think about today. How words sprang out of my mouth and knocked a smile to a frown, made twinkling eyes grow dark, and put someone on the defensive. I can almost see the words out there, hanging like a big cartoon word bubble above my head, and I wanted to gulp them in, to quickly take them back, to apologize and explain and beg for forgiveness.
I want to think that said words can be unsaid, but do I live my life this way with the words that have hurt me? That’s all I could think today when I fretted about hurting a friend’s feelings, about not being quick to agree to service for another, and for maybe flubbing the main question of our preschool interview. I wanted to yell out, “those words aren’t me!” True, they were tossing around in my head there for a second and I let them escape out of my mouth, but now that my brain has had time to catch up that isn’t what I wanted to say at all and can I please try again?
Thankfully through the atonement of our Savior and forgiveness to each other we can try again. At least, I want to have a chance to try again. This time I’ll say what I meant to say. You’re a great friend and thank you for reaching out to me when I needed it, or I know your calling is tough (you took my place when I was released) so of course, I’ll do whatever you need, or yes you have the most fabulous school in all of Seattle and I don’t have one single concern or question I’d like answered—your school is just perfect.
I want to rewind and re-record those things I said today, but I’m not so quick to erase the things you said to me. Because you really meant it. Those are your true feelings and when you said what you said it rocked me to the core and tilted the world off it’s axis and nothing feels the same between us anymore.
But how can I allow myself one standard, one where the atonement works and we’re allowed to make mistakes and the point of this life is to figure out how our body and spirit work together and more often than not stumble and fall? Why do I deserve that Holy consideration and you don’t? I think that you never came to me and said you’re sorry and while I pray to forgive, I don’t have to forget because I don’t want to get hurt again.
Maybe what’s easy for me to immediately say to my friend, “I’m a jerk. So sorry I said that. It just tumbled out of my mouth. Please forgive me.” while still feeling anxious and like crap all day is not quite that easy for you? Maybe you’ve been feeling anxiety about this for what, almost three years now?
I don’t know how you’re feeling. But I sure know that today was quite an eye-opener. How the worst thing to say came out of my mouth, and I didn’t really mean it. So why is it so hard for me to forget the words you said?