By Nichole Giles
There are a lot of words that fall off of people’s tongues with ease. Those who’ve been taught to say things like please and thank you in their youth often say it habitually, without ever needing to be reminded. It’s a good habit, as long as you remember to be sincere when you say it. I know people who have become so accustomed to ending a conversation with phrases like “love ya, bye,” that the words have become more of a closing statement than a declaration of feelings. And consequently, the phrase ends up inadvertently being used at an inappropriate time or to a person for whom the words are awkward.
I’ve noticed that adults have a tendency—just like teenagers—to latch onto certain phrases and keep them, only unlike our younger counterparts, our “sticking” words usually aren’t words like “ish” and “random.” I’ve even heard habitual “sorry’s” from people who have nothing to be sorry about. (Okay, I admit, that would be me. “I’m sorry your sister’s nephew’s cat got stuck in the chimney and ruined your great-grandmother’s carpet…”)
We get used to saying words that sometimes fly out of our mouths without thought, and in the process, the words tend to lose their meanings.
Some of the truest, most observant phrases come from children who haven’t yet had time to gather a vocabulary of sticking words. Sometimes the things our children say can be embarrassing to adults and parents because of the truthfulness behind them. But sometimes the statements made by toddlers unknowingly become an example to the adults who hear them.
Last week I went to visit my sister who lives out of state. I mainly went to spend time with her family. They have a newborn baby and I wanted desperately to meet her (and hold her, and snuggle her.) While I was there, my four-year-old nephew invited one of his little friends over to play. As they played make-believe, one super-hero (dressed-up) boy crashed into one super-girl. They hit heads and as a result, tears were shed.
My nephew, Colby, put his arms around his friend and said, “I’m sorry I hurt you.”
She replied with a sniffle. “I forgive you.”
For them, it was just that simple. And then all was well, and they went back to playing dress-up. As I watched this, I couldn’t help but wonder how it would feel for life, and apology or repentance to be so simple.
Except, what if it is? Or if it isn’t, what if it can be? We may not be able to control how others will react when we repent or forgive, but we can do our best to be sincere and true when we say certain important words like, “I’m sorry,” and “I forgive you.” “You’re welcome,” or “I love you.”
I wonder…if everyone around me were able to think about the words they say as they say them, how would our relationships be strengthened? Would we adults be able to hear or say the words, “I’m sorry,” and then forgive well enough to stand up, put the past behind us, and go back to whatever we were doing before?
I don’t know, but what a wonderful experiment to try. In 2009, I’m resolving to think through my own words, to listen to the ones spoken to me, and to be sincere in my important statements. Maybe if I start with me, the people around me will make that same effort. Or not. But if I hope to make a change, the best place to start is with myself.