This is a post I have been wanting to write for some time. In fact I had started a political blog a couple of months ago and was going to put this post on there but the fit didn’t feel right. Then the opportunity came up for my surgery and I made the decision to devote this time to me and parked the political blog for a bit and created this one. Now I have the perfect vehicle for this post.
One day I read online a little story. It could be a true story (I think it is) or it could be an urban myth. It really doesn’t matter which it is as the message within is valid irrespective.
A teacher in New York was teaching her class about bullying and gave them the following exercise to perform. She had the children take a piece of paper and told them to crumple it up, stamp on it and really mess it up but do not rip it. Then she had them unfold the paper, smooth it out and look at how scarred and dirty is was. She then told them to tell it they’re sorry. Now even though they said they were sorry and tried to fix the paper, she pointed out all the scars they left behind. And that those scars will never go away no matter how hard they tried to fix it. That is what happens when a child bully’s another child, they may say they’re sorry but the scars are there forever. The looks on the faces of the children in the classroom told her the message hit home. Pass it on or better yet, if you’re a parent or a teacher, do it with your child/children.
What got me thinking about this fabulous exercise was as we grow into adulthood we hope that most of us will leave any bullying traits in childhood, and obviously some sad individuals don’t. But thank goodness the majority of us do grow up or do we just change the way in which we leave scars on people?
I know at times we deliberately seek to hurt others and we must live with our own judgement on the rightness and wrongness of those actions. But how often have we uttered careless or unthinking words towards a recipient completely unaware of the impact those words have made; the potential scars they have left? Sit for a moment and think back to your childhood. Is there something or things that your parents said to you that may have seemed innocuous at the time but you still remember to this day. It is more than likely a scar that was left. That is why you can remember it.
One of the comments I remember the most was my mother asking me as a 22/23 year old “What did I have to show for my life”. When I asked what did she mean I was told because my sister (18 months younger than me) had a house and I didn’t. That was another huge scar in the breakdown of the relationship with my parents. As I said to her “You would really judge me as a person and the value of my life as to whether I have a house or not?” Was it an unthinking statement or deliberately designed to hurt? I think probably the former.
We, as in society as a whole, I believe are quite irresponsible overall with our communication to ourselves and as a consequence also to others. How much thought is put into things that are said that could have a unnecessary impact, create an irreversible scar? Too often the mouth is opened before the brain is put into gear. Is it laziness, is it lack of being taught, is it just the way we are? I certainly think the parent has a big responsibility to teach a child this lesson and the ball of crumpled paper is a great method. I have done it with my two children and will do so again as the message doesn’t always sink in the first time. But it is also laziness and lack of self responsibility. We need to take ownership for what we say. No one forces what comes out of our mouths, it is voluntary.
People often confuse the concept of freedom as meaning having a lack of responsibility. In fact the truth is in the reverse. True freedom is freedom with responsibility not from it. And the same is true with communication. Communication is how the world functions on every level. Literally nothing can happen without it in some form. So we have a responsibility to ensure the communication we give is accurate and presented in the correct format for the circumstances. That doesn’t mean for example that a child cannot be told off when being naughty. What it does mean is the words used should be considered carefully. There doesn’t need to be generalizations such as “You are always so naughty” or “Your sister doesn’t think like that, why do you?”.
The reason I wanted to write the post was when I read the crumpled paper article it reminded of the scars that my ex-long distance boyfriend recently left on me. He would regularly say he was worried he would be attracted to me because of my weight. At one point I asked him if he could stop saying that as it was feeding my own fear of that exact thing and impacting on the relationship. His reply was “I am just being honest with you”. Did he have to say it in exactly that way? Was there any self introspection and responsibility from him of how it might impact in my world; the scars it could and did leave on me?
I think of the scars that people like Craig and my parents have left on me and some of them hurt so badly that I do wonder have I done that to others? I am sure I have but I am trying to be more conscious; take more self-responsibility. Just today I purposefully held back communication to someone so as not to hurt them or to cause discomfort in their world. I wanted to say some things so much that it literally hurt me not to say them but my own pain was outweighed by not wanting to leave a scar on them. That is also communication. The art of recognizing within yourself when it is better not to communicate.
Can you think of scars that you have perhaps, unknowingly at the time, left on others?