This last weekend, I had one of those moments. You know... the ones where you say or text something and then 20 seconds after the words leave your mouth or fingertips you realize that they could have been hurtful? Yeah one of those moments. Great, right?
So after texting the original message and recognizing how it might have come across, I texted back and apologized for my seeming insensitivity. And I was so glad I texted back when I got the reply stating that the particular subject was a somewhat sensitive one to this person. She wasn't offended or hurt by my moment of unthoughtfulness, but I continued apologizing anyway. I couldn't believe I had been so dumb.
And then she said something that changed me:
Immediately, I thought of the very difficult times in these last few months, when someone has said something, and it hurt. Sometimes it literally stung to hear people say things like, "Are you sure it isn't something else?" (in my mind implying that a mental illness is not an acceptable diagnosis), "If you would or wouldn't have done __________, then this might not have happened," or "I know someone who had that and they didn't have to take medication because they learned how to be happy on their own." Ouch.
There have been so many moments that have seemed insensitive, but it was all because people didn't know. They didn't understand enough about bipolar disorder to realize that their words hurt, and I was part to blame, because I didn't help them understand better. But through these last few months, I have learned that, ultimately, I am the one that has to choose whether or not I will get offended. I must choose to keep the perspective that people are inherently good and that what they say is only meant to help. I might be wrong, but I like to believe that everyone has good intentions, that they simply don't understand the pain that their innocent words can cause, and that if they did understand the pain, then surely they wouldn't say what they intended to say.
I'm sure I've said more things than I am aware of that have hurt someone else, and I wish I could go back to make them all right. But since I can't, I hope that the people I've hurt have had forgiveness in their hearts for my ignorance. I don't understand what every person is going through, so I try to be sensitive, but I am far from perfect, and sometimes my words reflect that.
So just as I hope others will find it in their heart to forgive me for not knowing better, I need to forgive others for the things they say "when they just don't know."