Each of us inadvertently step on the open wounds of those we pass by on our path. It’s bound to happen as we all are in a state of repair and rebuild. And even the unintentional, unmitigated, misinterpreted pain, that our footprint pressed upon, is still wholly within our power to try and help the healing happen.
If I point out to the redneck that he literally stepped on my toe, his knee jerk reaction is to say “I didn’t do it on purpose”, which is understood. I explain. “I didn’t think you set out to squish my toe, but it still hurts regardless.” Saying we are sorry, doesn’t necessarily make it better, but it can often help and can be a welcomed validation of our suffering.
The other day my naturally hard edges and terse tone landed poorly for one of my kind kids (they are all kind, it’s simply alliteration rather than anecdotal information.) In the moment I refused to take responsibility and left abruptly because I was failing compassion that day. The redneck hunted me down where I was sitting in the garage and snapped at me, “You were an embarrassment to me in there!” he began, and he smiled softly because he was trying to turn my zen tables back on me. I started to defend myself but he continued his southern satsang. “It doesn’t matter if you intended to be mean, it was the way it LANDED. And you always tellin’ me I gotta be responsible for the way my words land. So go fix your mess.”
It’s true, in an open and compassionate heart, we take responsibility for both our own happiness and for how our actions impact those around us. We can’t live by — Don’t take things personally — as an excuse for not cleaning up our unintentional toxic tones.
We lead with — I’m sorry. And we take a genuine moment to feel that and breathe it in. We remember that we love this person and we feel their hurt as if it was our own. If necessary (tho it rarely is) we may feel the need to explain our actions or reactions, though it can be more helpful to ask them for help and input on how we can be more sensitive moving forward. Then, like a bookend we offer our apology in closing.
In truth, it doesn’t take that long. It certainly doesn’t diminish who we are or our values. We simply acknowledge that we stepped on someone’s toe … and that it hurts.
If the tender blades of grass are going to thrive we can’t keep trampling them with our steel toe army boots. And the world would be a dirt pile if we each didn’t tend to our garden.
And if you put the yellow Gadsden flag on the back of your pick-up truck next to your gun rack and your Confederate flag waving in the sleeze, then yes it’s a symbol of hate and you are part of the problem. It takes a powerful person to understand another person’s pain without taking it as an assault on their rifle. For each statue that comes down, we provide space for new grass to grow and whisper, I’m sorry.