Monday, October 25, 2010

Minding Our Words ...

I'd been heads down for much of the day, transcribing an interview, transcribing and transcribing. What takes 45 minutes to record takes much, much longer to convert into written words.

So it wasn't until later in the evening when I read this post from Twitterpal Angelo.

It started out amusingly – Angelo doesn't fancy himself a writer but he does a fine job – but later it landed a emotional wallop. It made me gasp. Tears welled up in my eyes.

Which struck me as a bit of an outsize reaction, so I sat with myself for a moment to understand what was going on.

And I realized that what he had experienced was very similar to something I've written about before.

If I may quote from my post:

But one night, I was in the basement, sitting in front of my brother's stereo, wearing his headphones and singing along. Hearing only the music in my ears, I didn't detect anyone else in the basement until one of my brothers poked his head into the den. For the life of me, I can't remember which brother it was. But I remember what he said: "Oh yeah, that sounds real good."

And that was the night I stopped singing.

I'm sure he just thought he was being funny. Brothers exist to chide their little sisters. But that night, those words dashed my dream. They made me fearful to let anyone hear me sing. Irrational, sure, but a perfectionist's fear is to be found lacking.

Every day, I receive a Daily Inspiration e-mail from Daily Om. Today's message began: "Words carry energy and this gives language its power and its potential to heal or hurt."

How many times have I made a snap, thoughtless comment that affected someone in untold ways?

I shudder to think.

And I apologize to each and every one of them, karmically if not personally.

It takes two, of course. Some of us are more sensitive, some of us have thicker skins.

"No one can make you feel inferior without your consent," Eleanor Roosevelt said.


How nice it would be to not be in that position in the first place. To have folks put themselves on a half-second delay when the urge strikes to say something snippy or snide in a sad attempt to seem clever or cool.

Now more than ever, I try to live my life by simple truths. The Golden Rule is really all we need. But "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all" is high on my list. I miss my own mark often, I know. But I'm aware. I'm trying.

Think about it. Literally. Stop before you speak, just long enough to consider that a comment that you'll have forgotten by your next sip of wine may have permanence for the person about which it's made.

"Sometimes when we are generous in small, barely detectable ways, it can change someone else's life forever."

— (No, I'm not kidding) Margaret Cho


Blogger Tom Erdman said...

Hi Beth,
I did have a moment recently where the filter was off, and I said something that was funny to me, but clearly offensive to the listener. I spent the next week apologizing to anyone who was within earshot of that comment. Words do have meaning, and sometimes different meanings than we intend. Message well delivered.

11:59 AM  

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