Have you ever been in this situation with a friend or loved one? My guess is that we all have.
I know this can create a lot of dukkha (suffering) for both the self and the person whose feelings got hurt. And if we attach to this because we want to undo what has been done, then we only perpetuate these disturbing emotions.
So what’s the answer, and how do we fix this from happening again?
First of all, I don’t think that most of us will ever be able to always say or do the exact right thing at the right time. But we can learn to be increasingly mindful of our words, and perhaps pause before we speak or write to anyone. Just a moment to observe your breath, and calm your thoughts.
In addition to this, I find that something a dear friend taught me, many years ago, to be very helpful. Oddly enough, this is also the same friend who initially introduced me to Buddhism.
Her advice to me was, “it’s not what you say that matters, it’s what the other person hears”.
At first, this seemed like a very odd concept. How could someone hear anything but what I said?
Especially if my intention was good, the other person must hear my words correctly, right? One hundred percent wrong!
Let me share an example of this. You could tell your Spouse that she really looks pretty today, and yet she gets very upset with you. Why? Because what she heard is that you don’t always think she is pretty, but today she is! Ouch.
Now, your intention was good and kind, it was loving, but you were not aware that what she was going to hear was very different from your words or intentions.
Now I am aware that some of you may read this and feel that there is no way to control every one of your words and also be fully aware of how others will hear them. And while I agree this is true, I also think that practicing mindfulness can only reduce greatly the number of incidents that cause harm or hurt.
Pause, be mindful, take a breath, and consider the other person who will be the recipient of your words or actions.
And believe me, I need to be reminded of this myself on a daily basis.
Loving kindness and acceptance begins with the self. And in this process, I accept my mistakes, forgive myself, and then let them go. Returning to the present, I have this moment that I can be more mindful and compassionate. And I am at peace with that.
May you be well, happy and peaceful.