Intent and Impact: Just because I didn’t meant it to hurt doesn’t mean it didn’t

Chapter 29 of Waking Up White: and finding myself in the story of RACE by Debbie Irving

Think of a time when you hurt someone’s feelings without intending to. Was your impulse to defend yourself? If so, why do you think that urge to defend your intention felt so important? If you eventually shifted from focusing on your intent to focusing on the impact of your words or actions, what inspired you to do so? What was ultimately required to heal the rift?

I grew up in a family who gently teased each other. The teasing was rarely mean, and usually pretty funny, and I came to hear a lot of criticism as gentle teasing. BUT my husband was and is not used to teasing. His mother, particularly, took everything that was said personally, and I know I probably hurt her feelings with off-hand remarks I would make.

I still blush thinking about the time when we were first married and we were visiting his parents. I asked him, for the umpteenth time, to get me a drink of water, and he replied, “Nag, nag, nag…” (quoting an old Alka-Seltzer commercial). I replied, “I don’t nag, your mother nags!” (which was followed on the commercial with “plop, plop, fizz, fizz” of the Alka-Seltzer being dropped in a glass of water.) Apparently, his mother had never seen or heard the commercial, and she got all red in the face, and walked out of the room. I, of course, was totally embarrassed, and tried to explain, but I was never sure whether she thought I was being truthful. I also apologized as soon as it became clear to me that she was offended. I’m sure she forgave me, and we had a really good relationship for many years, but, from that point on, I was always very careful to think through what I was going to say before I said it.

If you would like to join me as I blog about my experiences with race, please read the book. It was life changing for me.

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