“The words fell out of my mouth without my brain straining a muscle.”
I wrote the above sentence when one my characters said something mean and nasty and f*cking hilarious.
My writing friend, that wonderful technicality wizard, struck the line from the manuscript. She said, “Words cannot form without the brain first engaging.”
Technically, I suppose she’s right. Our minds do fire synapses telling our bodies what to do before the body can do anything. The pounding heartrate that happens because a squirrel ran in front you requires a nano-second for our brain to say, ‘slam on the brakes, you idiot’.
But seriously, can words fall without the brain consciously working? Do we say things we wish we hadn’t because we couldn’t stop ourselves? OR …
Do you see the subtle, but quite important, differences? Are all true on occasion?
It sure seems like words fall out of my mouth without my making the decision to engage my vocal cords.
I’m listening to a book right now, The Sinner by JR Ward. I’ve counted at least 4 times when a character has spoken without thinking.*
One of the best things about reading is that I can see myself in a character and not feel like I’m a bit crazy. After all, characters are realistic if not real.
But maybe, after fifty-five years, I should at least try to let my brain “think before I speak”? A goal for 2021.
*This is not a negative critique of JR Ward’s writing. She is the master of creative ways to say common things. She can turn a metaphor on its head and have me LMAO.
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I don’t have many triggers* but the word ‘disappointment’ makes my heart pound with anxiety. My father told me several times I was a disappointment. He told me he could never be proud or brag about me because whenever he did, I turned around an embarrassed him. So, being a disappointment is a deep wound for me.
My biggest fear is disappointing someone. And this fear has impacted every aspect of my life. My boundaries are hard to maintain because of this. I hate conflict because of this. My tendency to ‘buy’ friends is based on this. Even my eating disorder is grounded in this fear.
It’s going to sound strange, but only recently did I “feel” the difference between –
Disappointed IN versus
Do you see how “IN” is more focused on the internal or the essence? “IN” hits the heart and soul. “IN” is more a judgment of the whole.
Do you see how “WITH” is about the external? It’s an assessment of a specific thing or event.
When we are disappointed “with” something we have a chance to identify something specific and work on a strategy to overcome.
Someone I’ve very close to recently made a decision that was so painful and so wrong, it took our breath away. My first thought was “I am so disappointed IN him.” But that’s judging the entirety of who he is. What I meant was “I am so disappointed with his decision to do this.”
It’s a subtle difference but it’s also huge. “In” attacks the person. “With” attacks the situation.
Had my father told me he was disappointed WITH how I behaved when I did xyz, I could have processed my mistakes. Instead, he told me I WAS A DISAPPOINTMENT.
Not my behavior. ME.
Disappointed IN … Disappointed WITH … one word, one syllable, one wounding, one helpful.
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* Trigger - to cause an intense and usually negative emotional reaction
A few weeks ago, I posted a blog about Grudge Holding. A great friend [let’s call her Amy], who is always so supportive, responded to me via email. With her permission, I wanted to share some sections.
“I think holding grudges is tied to my tendency to not forgive, and sometimes I wish I could forgive more easily. But to your question, I do not believe everyone deserves forgiveness. In deciding if forgiveness is warranted, I consider many factors: does the person recognize the behavior is wrong?, was the conduct intentional?, was the behavior part of a pattern?, was a sincerely and timely apology offered?, and so forth.”
Amy went on to say: “It was this kind of thought process that led me to finally cut ties with my youngest sister. As painful and challenging as the decision was, she had wounded me too many times, and I saw no hope of her behavior changing. Each time she lied, stole or otherwise wronged me, she would apologize and then repeat. On balance, my life is better without her than with her.”
I think she has forgiven her sister. I think Amy sees that there is something fundamentally broken in her sister and wishes that wasn’t so. I think my friend did an AMAZINGLY BRAVE thing by cutting those ties. We are pressured to allow family members a place in our lives no matter their behavior and it took tremendous courage to stop allowing her sister to abuse her.
Cutting ties is not synonymous with unforgiveness. It hurts Amy to think of her sister and all that’s lost between them. That pain is proof forgiveness has occurred. She has forgiven but she will never trust. There’s a significant difference between unforgiveness and broken trust. I can forgive and never trust.
If we truly truly truly forgive, does that require a new trust? Are forgiveness and trust synonymous?
Maybe the pain Amy feels IS the PAIN OF UNFORGIVENESS. When I think of the one person I have no intention of forgiving, it is a physical pain. A clutching of the heart, a tightness. But mostly a wave of anger. That’s what I think unforgiveness feels like.
I have a couple of other friends who declare, “I have forgiven her, but I never want to see her again.” Is that what forgiveness looks like?
In my past religious life, I learned that forgiveness is God-ordained and modeled by Jesus – the turn-the-other-cheek lesson (Matthew 5:22-24, among others). I also learned that forgiveness is FOR ME more than for the offender.
What I was NEVER taught was how to offer this forgiveness.
Back to Amy … I believe the fact that she wishes forgiveness was possible means she has actually forgiven.
When our hearts hurt because someone can no longer be allowed in our life, then we have forgiven. When our hearts don’t wish it were different, we haven’t forgiven.
Let me make this clearer:
Thank you, “Amy”, for always hearing me, for accepting what I need to say, for challenging my beliefs. Thank you for being brave.
Click HERE for the Journaling Activity that accompanies this blog.
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