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Speaking too Soon

Thursday, 16 September 2010

It really wasn’t my place to say anything. I just couldn’t help myself….

They were about nine years old. Two girls and a boy. The girls approached him, making the loser sign, and gesturing in that not-nice way that pre-tween girls have a tendancy to do. Their words were muffled, but their feelings weren’t.

And in response, the kid gave them the bird.

It is a vulgar gesture, to be sure. But I remember what it feels like to be called a loser. The sinking feeling in your gut that says “hey, you don’t belong and you’ll never belong. FREAK.” Flipping the bird was the only way this kid felt that he could deflect the pain and seem as though their name-calling didn’t chip away at his self-perception.

But here is what happened next.

The boy’s mother came over and the head mean girl ratted on him. The mother looked mortified that her son had made such an obscene gesture and immediately began to reprimand him while the “victim” smuggly observed.

As the mother continued to explain, rather patiently, that such a gesture was inappropriate, my Yetzer HaRa said to the girl,

And so is calling someone a loser.

It wasn’t that what I said was wrong. It’s just that I said it to the wrong person. I should have taken the boy’s mother aside and explained that her son had been provoked. As Beernut, who observed the entire exchanged later said, the boy should have a consequence for doing something wrong. And I concur. I just felt that the mother ought to know that her son doesn’t just go around giving people the bird when she wasn’t watching.

I think my Yetzer wanted that girl, who obviously represents girls-since-grown, to know that we are always being observed. And we must be accountable for the hurts that we cause.

I have no way to apologize to her. Or to the mother. And that’s the problem with speech. Like Elvis, once the words have left our mouths, they are gone. They’re not coming back.

Al cheit…for the sin of speaking first and thinking second. For this sin, O God of mercy, forgive me, pardon me, and grant me atonement.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Heidi permalink
    Thursday, 16 September 2010 4:55 pm

    Now I’m really curious – how did the mean girl take it when you ratted *her* out? Was she ashamed of herself? If so, you probably did her a good turn. Anything that helps her grow out of being a mean girl has got to be good in the long run.

  2. Former Reform Jew permalink
    Thursday, 16 September 2010 11:02 pm

    I agree with Heidi, I don’t think you did anything wrong. Speaking first and thinking second in general is something most of us need to work on; but in this case, you fulfilled the mitzvah of “Justice, Justice you shall pursue” (Deut 16:20)

  3. Friday, 17 September 2010 11:54 am

    I think you did almost the right thing. Yes, you should have said it to the mom, but you shouldn’t have pulled her aside to say. You would have been absolutely right to say it in front of the girl. Shame on her. If you had pulled the mom aside to say something, you really would have had to pull the girl aside also.

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