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Chatterbox: The hard and soft of sorry


Anyone who has spent any time of any consequence on this planet knows that life is weird. It’s got a learning curve to challenge the equator. We never learn everything we need to know to function perfectly, and even those of us who have many of the qualities we need to just be nice, aren’t nice all the time.

Most of us are average human beings – basically solid, lawful, humane, and of average modesty. We don’t often aggress ourselves, are usually social, and believe in peace and equality. Still, the truth is that we all make mistakes. If only life came with a delete key (not to mention copy and paste).

Before the eraser, even before old bread was used to eradicate graphite, we simply put a line through our written errors. From the time before the Chinese invented mulberry paper, before papyrus, even before scratches in the sand, until today, most mistakes went unrecorded. They’re just human moments ... flashes in time, and even the best of us, who love deeply and care profoundly, sometimes say and do things that hurt someone else, and most are unintentional.

Indeed, there are always those people who forgive themselves easily. Most often, though, we realize that those people are usually fast to forgive others as well. That’s pretty healthy, but it isn’t perfect. Alternately, there are those of us who hang onto insult or guilt as though harm has been done on purpose, which, most often, is not the case.

When we’re the injured party, forgiving others can be tough but, most of us know, when we hurt someone else, especially someone innocent or someone we love, forgiving ourselves can be a tougher, more protracted process. It’s often difficult to even come to terms with the fact that we have done something hurtful and left pain in our wake. Words, as much as actions, can be harmful, and we must be careful when we choose them and choose to say them aloud.

Chatterbox has discussed our impact on each other often. We’ve talked about how everything we do, great and terrible, leaves footprints on the lives of those we touch. Coming to terms with having hurt anyone, for most humans, is tough. Still, if letting go of the guilt and moving on with a stronger constitution are our battles, the fallout must be what we use to improve ourselves.

There will always be those who hurt others intentionally. They are dealing with their own demons. The rest of us are lumbering around, trying to improve ourselves, trying to put our best foot forward and, yet, sometimes, finding that foot in our mouth. When that happens, the best we can do is follow it up with some humble pie.

We are, none of us, perfect, and it seems to me at least, that every time we think we’ve got our better self nailed down and steady, we fall over a new obstacle. It may just be human nature, but it’s also a human frailty. What we can do about this hamster wheel of rising and falling in our own estimation, and effort to be the person we want to be, is work and mystery.

We’re all works in progress. Extraordinarily few ever perfect the skill of how and when to hold our tongues, or always do the right things. We’re good only in spurts, and we all know that it is, often, hard to remain silent or even just calm when we see others, especially those we love or are responsible for, doing things that we know are mistakes, things that we recognize as ineffective or counterproductive, or that leave our experience screaming. It’s just as hard to have our feelings hurt, our earned seniority undermined or eradicated, or to be overlooked, taken advantage of, treated unfairly, or even insulted.

When advocating for ourselves in many situations, being heard is essential and no one should allow others to be disrespectful, but when we respond, we usually would like to be responsible. If we know we have overreacted, especially with loved ones, most especially little ones, there’s some soul-searching to be done and remediation to be faced. Harsh words must be followed by soft words, and soothing explanations must be spoken, sometimes on both sides.

Forgiveness ... it’s priceless, but it must go both ways. We are better off, every day, if we forgive others and if we learn to forgive ourselves too. It’s not easy, but it’s necessary.