In order for you, dear reader, to grasp the full weight of the story I am about to tell. I have to introduce you to someone first. Blogesphere, I'd like for you to meet...wait for it....my mother! (I would have loved to insert a picture here but she would kill me...literally)
I have to give you some background about the type of person she is. She is loud and spontaneous. She is funny and caring. She is generous to a fault! She will give you the clothes off her back. She is the life any party. She is persistent and stubborn and she is wise and extremely resourceful.
Three points about my mom to frame my story:
1. She can not stand unruly, disrespectful children. A child who disrespects an adult sends her over the edge. So much so that if we were in the mall and she saw an unruly disrespectful child, she would go over and verbal chastise the child...in front of the parent or guardian.
You would think a parent might get angry about this, right? I mean who is this woman coming over uninvited. NOPE! My mom always did it a way that made the parent/guardian feel empowered and made the child examine his or her behavior. I never knew what she said because I was too embarrassed to follow her in her righteous indignation. I hid in the bushes or sat far off on a bench until she was done.
Even to this day, she will still put me in a headlock when she thinks I have gotten a little "too big for my britches".
2. She is very quick to ask for help. I get that from her. She taught me asking for help was never something to be ashamed of because it the only way you grow.
3. She is hot tempered. In her defense, thanks to a little bit of age and whole lot of Jesus, she has learned to better control her temper. Even still, when she gets mad, she'll let you know.
Ok...now that you have met my mother and learned a few interesting facts about her, let me answer the challenge.
One day about 6 years ago, my mom sent me a text asking for help on a computer issue. I am not a tech person but she sent a string of texts asking about something. I was in a bad mood that day. I saw the first text, then the four immediately following it and rolled my eyes. She is was bugging me. I was irritated. Why does she always assume I know stuff? I fired off my response.
"Why do you always ask me this stuff? I don't know!"
I knew I shouldn't have sent it. I knew she would get mad. But I sent it anyway. I waited for the phone to ring and was ready to take an earful about being disrespectful. The phone never rang. No text ever came.
Hmm. That is weird. My mom doesn't miss a chance to put me in check. Then it hit me.
I hurt my mother with my words.
If she didn't respond, she wasn't angry. She was hurt. I didn't know how much until much later.
You may be thinking "what was so hurtful about that text?"
The problem wasn't just in the words of the text, it was in the tone of voice!
With computer mediate communication you can't hear the tone of voice and you can't see the body language. But this doesn't stop the other person from applying your tone of voice as they read and interpret your message.
This is what my mom did. In her head, she "heard" me snidely saying that text and she "saw" me "suck my teeth" and "roll my eyes" as I said it. That is what what hurt her.
Because she is my mother and knows all the nuances of my gestures and vocal intonations, she applied what she knew to what I said. So to her, it was as if I had said that to her face. Given what I told you about my mom's feeling about disrespectful children, she was hurt that her own daughter would treat her in such a way.
For months she never addressed this exchange. One day she informs me that she has signed up for basic computing classes at the local career center. When I asked why she suddenly decided to do that. She said, "So I don't ever have to bug my child again." Ouch!
One mistake I made that I wish I could take back was hurting my mother with a thoughtless text message. I apologized of course. And even though we have long ago made up and have moved past it, the thought of how I hurt my mom with poor communication and careless words still stings.
You never know how people filter your messages. As human beings, we naturally fill in communication gaps. And when we do, it is not to the benefit of the others.
While we can't take responsibility for how others receive a message, we can and should take as much care as possible on how, when, where, and why we send a message.
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