More often than not, what we say can have a greater impact on our lives and those of others rather than our actions. A slip of the tongue or perhaps words hurled in anger can be devastating, life-changing and ruin relationships forever. Let’s not get into all the linguistic and emotional permutations on how we can ruin a relationship. Today I want to focus on the other side of the coin.
After the storm has passed and we have had time to reflect on the actions of everyone involved, we are faced with the decision: wallow in self-pity, get stuck in that moment in time, cut off all contact, or make amends? My answer has always been – it depends. Apologising is one thing, whether you do it out of obligation or it is truly heartfelt, but forgiving is a completely different situation that I struggle with after all these years. I guess there is just too much water unter the bridge in some cases, and the emotional baggage we carry around is the biggest hurdle.
Let’s face it, it is scary to confront someone who did you wrong, or as often the case may be, you were in the wrong. I realised the other day that the utterance of two words can make or break the situation, and because we are dealing with human nature, anything can happen. This is definitely something I can vouch for!
Thank You: Remember those fundamental lessons we learned in kindergarten about saying please and thank you? (not to mention sharing your toys, don’t hit and don’t bite) Well I still subscribe to this concept and believe that kindness and politeness will get you much more in life than inconsiderate brute force. It’s basically more sustainable and you sleep better at night as well. You would think that thanking someone for a a gift or act of kindness should come naturally to us. Reality check folks: it doesn’t. I’ve run into so many people who chose to skipped this valuable lesson in kindergarten and didn’t seem to find the need to do so throughout their lives. I’m always taken aback when I thank someone and they act so surprised and perplexed, as if I have done something so extraordinary. It makes me wonder how they managed to navigate through life and still be in one piece.
Not Now: Oh how I hated hearing this as a chid! I understand it better as an adult, but it doesn’t mean that I’m a fan of this phrase at all. How many of you are guilty of blurting out these two words as an automatic reflex to your children or students? They come up to you and want to know something, need help, or sometimes just need a cuddle but you are in the middle of work, chores, errands, or driving and the first thing that comes to mind is that this request is a nuisance and interrupts your flow. Like it or not, it will always have long-term repercussions on the child and this will undoubtedly affect their self-esteem and your relationship with them as adults, regardless of whether you are a parent, relative or teacher. As adults, when a colleague, superior or someone whom you need a service or information from replies with this, it makes you feel unimportant and not valued as a person, employee or customer. At the end of the day, not now can obliterate and notion of caring in an instant.
(I pause for a grin)
I could go on about how this has messed things up in many bedrooms, but not today!
Never again: I remember hiking through a forest park with someone a couple of years ago and being told in my face quite bluntly: never again! The words were addressed to me as a slow walker and not in reference to the general terrain or conditions. It took all my power to keep myself together and not break down right then and there. A slap in the face would have been kinder and I knew at that moment that those words had marked the rapid demise of a friendship. On the other hand, for those of us reckless adventurers who never shy away from trying anything once, this can be the confirmation of a been-there-done-that situation where you used up all your daredevil points and brain cells for the week. Case in point – sky diving, snake curry, fried lizards, exorcism temples, sharing the village pond with the local buffalo herd, dangling from a billboard to get the damn shot in the morning light. My list of never-agains is endless, and I’m positively not finished yet either. Let me add fermented goat cheese marinated in oil and vinegar to that before I forget… (known here in Germany as Handkäse mit Musik)
Why not: Oh those nightmare years dealing with young children and later on teenagers who challenged our house rules and family traditions (or lack thereof)! From a certain age onwards No! always requires an explanation and not to be followed up with not now… but let’s not dwell on parenting and let me point you towards a dwindling sense of adventure for many of us mid-lifers. It is too easy to list all the excuses for why we don’t do something more adventurous or even dangerous. There seems to be a really annoying unwritten rule that risk should no longer be part of our vocabulary after you turn 50. Well I disagree. If the opportunity presents itself to something life changing and experience something new, why not? Why impose a self moratorium on fun and discovery? We will reach old and rickety soon enough so might as well go out and poke the bear or chase the tigers! Who knows, you might just stumble on a sunset that moves your soul or a person who heals all the wounds.
I leave you for now with the open question that I will explain further in my next entry: why the hell not? Stay tuned!