There is a dark side to our subject, isn’t there. Every yin has its yang.
In part 1 of this three-parter, we considered how kind words and gestures of little notice to the other party can stay with us forever to our betterment.
Not so here.
Here the consequence is not blessing but burden – not help but hindrance. Here an unintended word or act from another has first stung… and then developed into a lingering fester.
With no intent and no malice, someone has said or do something to you that wounds like a hornet sting. And usually (unless you speak out) they are not even aware that it happened. He, or she, doesn’t remember it; [you think] you’ll never forget it.
But you can.
Or if not forget it, you can certainly get over it. You can take its power away.
I cannot tell you how many couples and families I have worked with over the years in which a relationship had be harmed due to the reaction to an unintended slight. For example,
Jeffrey came to see me seeking my advice about a conundrum that had “come out of the blue,” as he put it, into his life about a week earlier. In his words,
I got a call from my sister last week that blew my mind. She said, ‘I just want to let you know that I’m still mad at you.”
‘For what?’ I said.
This made her even madder. ‘For what?’ she said. ‘What do you think!’
‘You got me. I don’t know what you’re talking about.’
‘For what you said at dinner at Mom and Dad’s on New Year’s Day.’
I was confused. I said, ‘Linda, THAT WAS 18 MONTHS AGO!’
She said, ‘I know. That’s when it happened. When we sat down at the table you looked at my plate and said, ‘Wow Sis! You’re going to need a good trip to the gym to work that off!’
I was stunned. I said, “Good night Sis, we always kid like that!’
‘I know,’ she said, ‘but that embarrassed me and I got mad at you.’
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Eighteen months of life gone by, 18 months of carrying this unintended slight, 18 months of harm to this sibling relationship.
Just what can we do to rid ourselves of these kinds of unintentional slights? The answer is a simple one.
Let go of it.
This type of problem can only persist because we keep it alive by feeding it thoughts. We ruminate on it, vivify the event over and over in our heads. We allow it to grow large and funky.
Let go of it.
Embracing and feeding unintended slights take us into the level of the petty. It introduces us to the first-born child of that infantile and superficial doctrine known as political correctness whose name is Offended.
It is a trap that leads one into numerous pits, not the least of which is a life of reactionism.
Unless we have the personal power to say, They didn’t mean anything by it and my life is too important to make a big deal of it, we make ourselves capable of being taken hostage by the most inconsequential unintended slight.
Here is some excellent thought material to counter the temptation to enlarge a slight into a problem – to turn the unintended into an offense [or offence, for our UK readers]:
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– The more peace you have, the less offense you take. (Anna Pereira)
– Being easily offended is a symptom of immaturity. (a common observance)
– It’s now very common to hear people say ‘I’m rather offended by that,’ as if that gives them certain rights! It’s no more than a whine. It has no meaning, it has no purpose. (Stephen Fry)
– That which offends you only weakens you. (Wayne Dyer)
– The simple fact is, offense is taken, not given. (Ricky Gervais)
– We should be too big to take offense and too noble to give it. (Abraham Lincoln)
Don’t allow “He [or she] doesn’t remember it; I’ll never forget” become a bane to you. You have the power to disallow that.
There is one codicil, if you will, that may help you if you find an unintended slight just continues to stick in your craw for some reason. We’ll look at that next time.