It’s not what you said…..

It is how you say it… In retrospect, it IS what you say and how you say it. Yesterday, I did something that really bothered me. If this was a year ago, it would not have fazed me at all. I spent a second responding to something in jest and then logged off. A simple act of trying to be funny and at first I thought how clever of me. But as time marched on, it haunted me. I went back and edited my comment and I thought to myself am I being too sensitive?
As a child, my family had a code. Never say something nice to another and if you did, make sure you veil it in sarcasm and as a joke. My father was the king of being sarcastic and mean and I honestly remember only two rare comments on being successful. One was when I was younger and was putting away an extension cord and he approved of the way I coiled it. The other time was when he was dying and I was his power of attorney. I had to do his bills. He approved of my system as it was the same practice he had. Other than that, it was always a nasty joke or just plain hurtful comment. As my siblings grew up, they too got into the act and perfected their ability to make snide left handed comments. The saying was “we would not say these things if we didn’t love you”. I am dead serious about that and as I typed it, I though holy smokes that is so broken. I grew up in a very toxic environment and I have spent a lot of time recently trying to heal from it.
And I guess it is working as my comment yesterday, made totally in love, bothered me. I was actually disrespectful of someone I have nothing but the highest regard for. So I went back and changed it, knowing full well the damage was done and that there was no real remedy. How often do we say things, thinking how clever we are, only to really demonstrate our total disregard of the being we just insulted? As a new teacher, this was something I learned the hard way. I had one student, who was actually stoned a lot, who I had very little disregard for his feelings. I made comments in front of his friends about his permanent inebriated state, which I thought would let him know I did not approve of it and I was aware. Again, I made a joke in my comments, hoping the cleverness would hit home. His friend came to me one day and told me how much my comments were actually hurting him and I stopped. He did not stop getting stoned, but he was better in class and he did try harder. You have to understand the class I had to appreciate how much these kids were hanging on by their fingertips. It was a valuable lesson that fortunately I learned fairly early on in my career. I know that in schools, this is a common practice for teachers who are frustrated with their charges. They make comments to each other, and one has to realize that they carry the practice into the classroom. It is partially the systems fault as a teacher can get in trouble for making a direct comment that in honest review maybe the truth about a student, but would be construed as harassment. For example, if I had said directly to this student “do not get stoned”, it implied that he is doing something illegal and I could have been in trouble since I actually never saw the act. Of course the stink of marijuana emanating from him was a dead giveaway. Such is our world and this harassment concept is everywhere. I think this too has gone too far. But that conversation is for another time.
I am glad for the lesson yesterday from a simple post. I decided to write about it to reinforce the feeling of regret and to help me to concentrate on what I say and how I say it. I do not have trouble saying nice things to anyone. I think that is something that as a child I practice actively and it was not accepted in my family circle. I know the comments from my family hurt me deeply, and I also know for fact that the practice is still the norm. My oldest brother struggles mightily with his inability to express himself and we have often commented on his very stilted letters and comments about events in his life. I know his wife has suffered greatly from his lack of affectionate words, but she understands the family dynamic as she has been a member for over forty years. She does not practice sarcastic comments. Instead, she hardly ever talks, but alone with me she has shared her feelings. My other sister-in-law, who is no longer married to my brother, has often commented on the cruel language especially when it was targeted at me. The impact has affected me without me totally being aware until recently. I knew of nothing different for the longest time, because my first husband readily engaged in the same practice of sarcastic and hurtful words and in time perfected it.
I am blessed to have awareness that this is not a normal practice. I am also very glad that I do not accept people making comments like that to me now. And I am sorry that I still slip, but I am glad I am aware enough and want to rectify my mistakes. We have a family reunion coming up this summer, and I am going to listen to see how much of this nasty habit still exists within my brothers. I know in their hearts, they too have been hurt from it and I hope they may have changed.
It is what we say. It is how we say it. It all matters.

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