Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Truth and Consequences

I f*cked up. (Sorry, but no other word suffices.) Looking back on my life... at things I've done and said... this isn't new. Maybe the truth is it's part of human nature. (Look at Adam and Eve.) And looking at them, it's obvious the first response to being called on the carpet for your sins is to justify your actions. "She made me do it... it was the snake's fault."

Only no one made me do it and it was my fault. Is my fault. The pen is mightier than the sword is a cliché for a reason. It happens to be true... (In my case, the keyboard. Same difference.)

I wrote a post debunking a myth that women in religious communities spend their days in compassionate harmony with each other, unlike the outside world, where it can be dog eat dog. I specifically wrote about annoying habits—those of my own, and those of some of my sisters. That the post was mostly about me and my own uncharitable response to irritating events—went unnoticed by the one sister who honed in on the two sentences that described the dark side of her personality.

She was shattered.

I should have known better. I'm older, supposedly wiser. Ha! She confronted me with her hurt, told me I was not her friend. Of course I denied that. I like her (love her) more than many of my sisters. I explained and justified, apologized that she was hurt, feigned ignorance of why she was so hot and bothered by what I'd said. We talked for a long time... quietly, tearfully, compassionately. Well, she did.

I was still stinging from the rebuke, downplaying the two sentences that had hurt her in the midst of several paragraphs that had nothing to do with her. I emphasized my final conclusion that "we are not our annoying habits" but the damage was already done. I could see that, and nothing was going to change her perception. Because it was her truth.

When people hurt each other, whether on purpose or by accident, they have to face the consequences.

As I typed along, did I know what I wrote would hurt her? Maybe. Did I care? Not enough. Ouch. All my adult life I've journaled, but blogging is my first attempt at writing for an audience. I'm just beginning to flex muscles I never knew I had, and the truth is I don't know my own strength.

The thrill of exploring a new creative avenue feels good, like when I first learned to cook from scratch. But a fallen cake can be dumped in the trash and all I've lost is the expense of the ingredients. Nobody got poisoned. Not so with my writing. What I wrote and how it was received poisoned our relationship. It may die. I may have killed it.

To say I didn't know it would end up like this is folly. I should have known. Ouch. To say I'm sorry and expect that will make it all go away is folly too. Because the truth is my need to write overpowered my need to be compasssionate. Ouch. Ouch. Ouch.


Anonymous said...

I choose to remain anonymous to most people so that I don't have to worry about what I write being read or miscontrued. If I want to speak my mind or write from the heart, I do it. If someone comments on it to me, I tell them:

I can only please one person a day. Today is not your day. Tomorrow is not looking good either.

All kidding aside - don't be too hard on yourself.

cgssis said...

You were right in the very first paragraph: we all err, we all are human. It happened before, it will happen again. That is what being human means. We don't try to hurt others, but sometimes we do. The best we can do is admit our folly, learn from our mistakes, and try not to repeat them. You have done what you can to repair the damage. Now it is up to your sister to forgive -- and hopefully forget. Give her time and lots of love.

Pat said...

Big hugs to both of you. May your awareness of each other's vulnerabilities bring you closer together. Peace and prayers offered in your direction.

kpjara said...

And don't eat meat either...Seriously, your words have never felt like they were tearing down, to me, and while I haven't been a player in your journey, I do know the outcome.

Isn't the final destination all that matters and what we choose to write about in our own experience fully owned by the author? I just think sometimes we lose authenticity in our attempts to be civil. What is real is that people aren't as pretty as they appear in the mirror. Maybe I just need to post something on this? or perhaps just ponder and pray.

4501 Safari said...

Every person's "truth" is different. If that is a problem for another we can choose to make it our problem also or not. Only liars can say they have never said anything that could be construed to hurt. If you're having a "bad" day in your head the cheerful "Good morning!" from another is NOT what you want to hear. People who wear feelings on sleeve eventually need to get the stain out (old Proctor and Gamble saying. Personally, I saw nothing wrong with what you wrote. Guilt is a great censor. Keep from buying into it, eh?

Claire Joy said...

4501...You seem to miss the point of the post. It was not guilt motivating (or censoring) me, it was immediate recognition that I had carelessly hurt my sister. I sacrificed her feelings on the altar of "good writing style." There is no excuse for that.

Sarah said...

Your post made me really reflect on the power of the pen, and you also made me reflect on how I should also watch what I say. Thank you for being brave enough to share this. I think it is a lesson well learned, and well remembered, for all of us!