In a time when technology allows the words we say to be repeated over and over all across the world, it seems we are becoming less responsible for what we say. How many times a week do we read in the news about some famous person putting their foot in their mouth and the only response given is, “that is not what I meant”? From football players, to models, to politicians, people aren’t taking responsibility for what they say when in the end it hurts or offends someone.
But it is not just the famous… I know there are times I do it, I bet most if not all of us do it. We hurt someone we know, or someone we don’t by our words. Usually words we say without thinking. We find out we hurt someone and our only response is “that is not what I meant”. We push the responsibility onto the person hurt… we are telling them it is their problem it was taken the way it was.
But it is our responsibility. We are responsible for our words. Words are powerful and we should treat them in such a way.
I always hated the saying “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” I hate the saying because words do hurt. They might not cause visible marks and scars, but they can scar us emotionally and psychologically. They can stay with us for life. A mere “that is not what I meant” doesn’t erase the words nor the pain.
I don’t think anyone, myself included, will not ever say anything that will hurt someone… it seems almost impossible. I do think I, we, can take responsibility when our words hurt others.
What does taking responsibility look like? I believe it starts with a genuine apology and understanding why the other person was hurt… leaning to be empathic. It also takes learning from the experience so the same thing doesn’t happen again. It takes listening to the other person and not rushing to a place of defensiveness. It takes swallowing our pride and being humble. It is owning up that we were wrong in what we said.
None of this is easy. I don’t like admitting that I hurt someone with my words. It doesn’t feel good. It feels much better to put the responsibility on the other person… saying they are too sensitive or took it the wrong way.
When I look at Keaton, I don’t want him to learn to take the easy way out from me. I want him to learn to treat others with respect and compassion. I want him to know that we all mess up in this endeavor and it is ok to mess up… but we have to take responsibility when we do.