In recent years, the blogging world has exploded. Thanks in large part to social media, posts are written, shared, copied, pasted, tweeted, liked and sometimes the really lucky ones end up on news sites. They may even get their very own meme.
One of the most common types of blog posts that I have come across, are the “What Not to Say” posts. There must be hundreds because I feel like I see one every day. They are virtually the same layout, “What Not to Say to (fill in the blank with random sub-category of the human family)”. The post then contains a list of five to twenty things you should NE-VER say to the aforementioned sub-category.
I’ve learned from these posts. Thanks to these incredibly insightful articles, I now know all the things I shouldn’t say to people who own dogs, people who hate dogs, people who are gay, people who are pregnant, people without kids, people with lots of kids, people who adopted kids, people who gave birth to kids, people with depression, people who’ve lost loved ones and people who eat shrimp…to name a few.
Because of the knowledge I’ve gained, I feel much more capable of interacting with my fellow man. I have learned that:
1. 1. If you should happen to meet someone with depression, please don’t tell them it will be okay. Also don’t tell them to get over it. Don’t talk to them at all actually, but be there for them. They just want to know you care, just don’t express it vocally. But call them sometimes, just to talk.
2. 2. If a mother with a lot of kids is walking in the grocery store, you should acknowledge her but don’t ask any questions, compliment her children, give “disapproving looks” (make sure you don’t get anything in your contact lens when you’re around a mother with multiple children), smile at her, frown at her or tell her that her hands are full. I mean really, what kind of animal are you?
3. 3. If you encounter a pregnant woman, don’t speak. At all. Period. And for the love of Pete, don’t notice that she’s pregnant.
This is a short sampling of the knowledge I’ve gained. Anyone else noticing the issue here?
Here’s the thing. We all want to be accepted. We all want to be shown respect. That’s not unreasonable. I won’t lie, I’ve had to bite the inside of my cheek more than once when people have made comments about how many kids I have or how young I am, or my crazy religion. I get it. I really do. We all have feelings, young Mormon moms included.
But what if we’ve got this whole thing backwards? Is it possible that we are being a teeeeeeeensy bit too sensitive here? Do you think that maybe, just maybe, we need to chill out a little?
Maybe that woman her turned her face away from you and your two small children, looking disgusted, has been struggling with infertility. Maybe she just lost her child. Maybe it’s not that she is disgusted by your children, maybe it just hurts.
That friend who told you to “get over” your depression? Maybe she just doesn’t know what to say anymore. Maybe she loves you so much that it hurts her to see you unhappy and she’s angry with herself for not being able to help you. Maybe she is trying as hard as you are. Maybe harder.
That person who asked you if your religion worships a magical lizard (yes, I have been asked this question) is desperately wanting to find God. Maybe they just want to feel something, anything, and they just don’t know how to ask.
The grocery store worker who asked you if you’re having twins or “about to pop”, maybe she remembers those days and is thinking of her grandbaby who lives on the other side of the country, the one she is so desperate to see that she is working forty hours a week ringing up groceries just so she can afford the plane ticket.
The bully at school who mocked you for being gay, maybe his parents wouldn’t understand his secret. Maybe he wakes up every day wishing he could make it just go away. Maybe he is jealous because your friends still love you, a love that he fears no one will ever feel for him.
What about the homeless man on the street? I wonder if he would be grateful if someone would just speak to him at all, just acknowledge that he’s a living soul, a person, someone’s child. God’s child.
People are going to say things. Sometimes those things will hurt. Sometimes they will irritate. But is it possible that instead of worrying about what they’ve said, how they looked at us, or didn’t look at us, we could just simply choose to not worry about it? I’m not saying it won’t hurt a little. It might hurt. Words can hurt. Looks can hurt. But by dwelling on it, fussing about it on facebook or twitter, blogging about it, etc. aren’t we just keeping our finger in the piranha tank?
Maybe we could all try a little harder to assume the best, hope for the best and choose to let it go when we get offended. Chances are, we’ve been on the other end of things at one time or another. Come one, tell me you've never put your foot in your mouth before.
Speak softly and use that big stick for something productive, like roasting a big fat marshmallow.