Author note: This post was private until 22 April 2017
14 January 2011
Sometimes the most unexpected things cause one to see something in oneself that needs owning. Last year (2010), I said something in the heat of a moment that I deeply regret. It doesn’t, to some degree, matter that I never would have actually acted on the words I used, or the reasons behind why I said them. But it does matter that I said them, because they brought pain and heartache to both myself and, horribly, to another. Maybe more than one other, ultimately.
Words matter. Words matter whether the other party hears them or not. Words matter because even if no one else had ever heard me utter them, I would have at the very least been hurting myself.
With free speech comes responsibility. What we say creates something, even if it does not seem like it is a big deal at the time. One word here, another word there, small in themselves to some degree, until they start to pile up, until they get lifted and carried on the wind. Until each drop becomes part of an undeniable tidal wave. Gratefully, good words can do this too, but so often it is only the ones that incite, that excite, that cause pain, that gain momentum, until the life-affirming and the positive words are drowned out in the hate-filled ones, as is evidenced by the violence in Arizona this past week.*
My words did not, thankfully, cause violence. But they did cause disruption and pain. Their impact was limited, albeit within a larger group of people than it needed to be. There has been forgiveness and compassion now, regarding this personal incident in my life, forgiveness by the other party and within myself for that awful, rending moment. This does not negate the fact, though, that I betrayed something at the core of my being and everything I believe in by saying them at all. To not admit this made me a hypocrite when I am appalled by the actions of a group of people blind-sided by fear using their words in destructive ways.
The actions on a shop corner in Arizona* may have physically been the work of one lone gunman, but make no mistake that they were not fueled by rhetoric from somewhere. Something he heard or experienced brought him to believe that it was, at the very least, acceptable for him to take the lives of complete strangers simply because he did not agree with a woman who was talking to them.
This event has the potential for healing, great healing for our shattered, divided country if we can all look in the mirror of it and see what is broken inside of us that has allowed this to happen in the first place. What have we not addressed in ourselves that might have prevented this from happening in our community at large? For me, the blessing has come in accepting even more responsibility for everything I do and say. It is taking an awareness that I didn’t think was possible of every action, thought, and word that I will probably be working on until the day I part this life, and beyond. To deny, however, that I am not culpable in some fashion in adding to the dysfunction of our human family would be a false-hood I am no longer willing to live with. The only thing I can think to do to rectify the detrimental aspects of my contributions to the human family is to move forward with as much integrity and awareness as I can muster, so that what I mirror from now on is the best and brightest of those whom I meet. I pray I am up for this challenge.
*Reference: Gabrielle Giffords||Assassination attempt