James decided to re-construct the pink house in Buenos Aires, Argentina. It’s the seat of the country’s government and sometimes home of the president. Did I mention that it’s pink? Anyway, he printed a picture and pasted it on cardboard. He cut out the cardboard, folded and taped it onto a sturdy placemat. He drew green bushes with red flowers around it. He attached the Argentina flag to it with a toothpick, and brought it to school. He was very happy until a classmate made fun of it.
James’s structure wasn’t elaborate, or decorative, or grand, but it was his own. And he should have felt good about what he did. But some bully decided to steal the joy from him.
“If I refuse to accept your abuse, is it not yours?”
I wrote down that line a long time ago when I was feeling particularly abused at work. It’s kind of funny how we remember emotional pain much more vividly than physical pain. I can remember all the people who wronged me and what I wished I would have said to them. But I can’t remember the pain of walking into the door with my face a few weeks ago (and yes the door is fixed and I no longer leave it open).
It’s hard to ignore the hurtful, hateful things people say and not wish them ill will. However, we don’t know the other side. We don’t always know what’s happening in their lives. It doesn’t make it right, but it gives us perspective. While some of us suffer the abuse and let it grow and fester, others lash right back, spewing ugliness they’ve kept hidden. Both are forms of acceptance.
What if we don’t accept the ugliness? What if we let the verbal tirade roll right off our skin like water rolls off a well-oiled bench? It has nowhere to go except to the ground where the sun and wind will erase its stain.
Hurtful words are a lot like James’s structure: they are only temporary and no one needs to hang on to them forever.
What do you think?