Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Folly of Saying Hurtful Things

"If with the best intentions in the world, we say hurtful things to someone that do not actually help them, our aggressive and direct manner will not have achieved its goal. Maybe what the person needed was a white lie!"

- Dalai Lama

Of course, the Dalai Lama is not talking here of people who say hurtful things to hurt, but only of people who say hurtful things in good faith, in order to help someone. Yes, it's odd, but there really are people of good will who use hurtful talk in an usually clumsy attempt to help people. Perhaps such people do not realize how they are making things more difficult for the person they are trying to help?

Some years ago, I said a few hurtful words to my secretary. Her head jerked back a bit, almost as if I'd slapped her. She was the most gentle of people, and perhaps it's precisely because she was so gentle that I still recall her reflexive response to my words. Looking into her eyes immediately afterwards, seeing the hurt and confusion there, I was ashamed. Worse, I knew in an instant that my words had done nothing to help her. She would never take them as I wanted her to take them. She would remember only that I had hurt her.

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