Last week’s piece on “Dirty Words” spurred a lot of chatter in my circle in the days that followed. There’s nothing better to me than hearing differing viewpoints coming from a place of mutual respect.
I’ve never felt the need to agree — only to be able to say whatever we need respectfully. It was called to my attention that sometimes people know not what they say or the effect it may have on its listeners. In other words, sometimes there’s zero ill intent on the part of the speaker of those dirty words.
I think that’s certainly got to be true, and yet we have an expression that ignorance of the law is no defense. Likewise, just because you didn’t mean to hurt someone’s feelings doesn’t mean they’re hurt any less.
So how do we overcome the hurt we feel by people who mean us no ill will? Surely, you can discuss it with them, if it’s someone you feel comfortable and deem worthy of discussing your feelings with. But often, the person is a business contact or a distant acquaintance, or you’re in the middle of a social situation in which calling them out or making a scene is the last thing you want to do.
What, then? After thinking about it a while, I’ve come to the conclusion that the answer has got to be some combination of mercy and grace.
I’ve heard it said that we frequently choose to forgive, not because the other person deserves it but because we do. A companion expression is that resentment is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die.
So if you choose not to confront the person, there comes a point where it’s time to just let it go. You can talk it out with your friends.
You can journal or write a song about it. Do whatever you need to do to process it. And then release it.
In addition to forgiveness, mercy is an act of compassion. We imagine where the other person is coming from and recognize that their viewpoint and experiences are unique and different from ours, and that doesn’t make them wrong. When we gaze upon another with the eyes of mercy, we begin to allow them to be exactly as they are instead of how we think they should be.
I read that grace is extending kindness to the unworthy. But I’d argue we’re all worthy of kindness and that judging the worthiness of others is not a task that we need bother ourselves with.
Everyone you meet is going through something. A little kindness goes a long way — especially in a day and age in which it’s so common to simply look the other direction and when you don’t instantly feel a connection.
As we move about this next week, let’s try to meet the eyes of everyone whose path we cross — to attempt to truly see them. And no matter our difference of opinion, let’s resolve to treat everyone with the grace and mercy with which we’re all so very deserving.
As always, I'd love to hear from you and can be reached at shanastein.com.