Be Impeccable With Your Word. Speak with integrity. …Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.
Miguel Angel Ruiz
Does saying something in the name of humour excuse one from the harm those words may inflict?
This is my apology to a person whom I care very much for my insensitivity. No, it was not my intention to hurt yet that was, I suspect, the outcome. He may deny it, but I know there was a part of him which was triggered by some faraway memories in that moment. And what’s said cannot be unsaid.
This is also my reflection of the un-thinking way we sometimes speak. How often have we heard the reprise, “But I didn’t mean it”. I have enough faith in humanity to say that hurtful words were usually not intended. But then, neither do we consider the possible harm they may cause before we speak. Haven’t you been in situations where you wished you had not said those things, even if in jest?
It’s true, I didn’t know of his circumstances. Nevertheless, does it justify the fact that my words hurt him? Is ignorance an excuse?
Beyond hurting another, there is a part of me that is disappointed in myself. I know I am not a vicious or mean person; nor am I one who chatters incessantly without thought. Yet it would seem that I do not always attend to what I say.
So does humour excuse my behaviour? Perhaps that is not the correct question. The questions to ask before we speak may be,
- Are these words necessary?
- Do these words encourage or lift?
- Do I need to say them?
If the answer to any of the questions is ‘no’, then why am I compelled to speak? Here is the awareness and the lesson. Am I speaking because of my needs or the receiver’s?
I have nothing against humour. As Sean O’Casey said,
“[L]aughter is wine for the soul – laughter soft, or loud and deep, tinged through with seriousness – the hilarious declaration made by man that life is worth living.”
BUT let not humour masks our selfish needs; let it not override the potential harm our words may cause.
Each one of us has our wounds, some obvious and some not, whether physiological, emotional or psychological. When we speak, we must pay attention to how our words are likely to land on the other.
It takes practice to be thoughtful and considered, to be quiet. It takes practice to only say what is necessary and meaningful and perhaps for the purpose of encouraging or lifting up another.
Speak clearly, if you speak at all; carve every word before you let it fall. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.
© 2014 Copyright reserved. The author asserts her moral and legal rights over this work.