Can You Say That?

My daughter has been reading a book about things we humans find hard to say. We’re not talking about fancy words, simply words that carry some risk and make us vulnerable.

Although I haven’t read the book, there are some words in my own experience that raise my pulse when used.

One of these is: “I’m wrong.” As a kid, I knew better than to admit I was wrong because one of my siblings, a bully, would then use it against me. Who wants to be taunted over her own failures several times a day?

As I grew older, I realized the value in admitting I was wrong. It not only clears the air most times but also tosses the hard-feelings ball in the other person’s court. It’s pretty embarrassing to harass someone who isn’t tossing emotional hard balls your way.

Saying “I was wrong” solely to clear the air, however, is counter-productive. We must do it with a genuine attitude of humility accompanied by, “Will you forgive me?”

“I don’t know” is another hard-to-say phrase, especially for parents and teachers. We’re supposed to know everything, so isn’t it admitting failure to NOT have all the answers?  Not really.  Sometimes we just don’t know.

How about the tiny word “No?”  Oh, how we hate to disappoint people! But have you ever damaged relationships by failing to say no when someone needed to hear it? “Could I take the car Friday night and drive my friends around town?” asks your 16-year-old newly-licensed son. Only wildly insane or stupidly optimistic parents would answer yes to that one.

Sometimes it’s hard to say, “You need to change.” We feel our own vulnerability; why point out someone else’s?  But some of my most profitable encounters have come from people who diplomatically said, “You need to change.” And then they showed me how to do it.

Words: easy to think of, hard to say. “What a curious power words have.” (Quote by Tadeusz Borowski, This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen).

Roberta Sarver is an author and songwriter who lives in central Missouri. Her humor columns appear in the Versailles Leader-Statesman and her original songs of worship have appeared on radio stations across the nation. She and her husband are the parents of seven children.

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