Pre-Pesach musings

Last time I wrote a serious post, it was about not taking what people say seriously when they are not being rational (throwing a tantrum). This time I want to talk about taking people seriously, because, in fact, most people do.

Sometimes, we take people too seriously. We allow the nasty comment of a stranger ruin our day. We allow the unfeeling statement of a friend or acquaintance to hurt us.

My mother used to say, “consider the source,” meaning that if the person said something nasty or cruel, chances are he/she wasn’t such a nice person to begin with.

On the other hand, we should pay attention to those who are kind and helpful and to people who we can trust.

Many years ago, my dear friend Susan said only a few words to me that changed (for the better, of course) my whole life. From time to time, I run into people I have had as clients and other acquaintances and they tell me that something that I had told them in the past really helped them.

In Pirke Avot, wise people are instructed to be careful with their words– and even those of us who are not wise, should be careful. Words can hurt and words can heal.

And here is the real challenge that we live with: people listen when we speak. When we say something that helps or hurts them, they remember what we’ve said far longer than we do. A word said in anger can ruin a relationship. A kind word can save a life.

So maybe when we’re thinking of cleaning for Passover, when we rid ourselves of even the tiniest crumbs of what is unfit, it’s a good time to think of the impact of what we say and to realize that even the smallest negative remark can hurt someone a very long time and the smallest expression of support can change someone’s life.

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  1. Nice post. It’s amazing how long negative stuff says with us, and how hard it is to hold on to the good stuff. I received a very disparaging comment from the father of a kid I babysat for when I was 16. That comment made me feel completely inadequate, and like I’d never succeed at anything. To this day – nearly 30 years later – that comment pops into my head and I have to fight it to keep me from feeling like I can’t do something.

    I have a whole collection of these kinds of comments. And the vast majority of them were people just tossing off a thoughtless comment, not meaning to be hurtful in any way. Although I think that makes them more hurtful – at least if someone’s being deliberately malicious, you can blame the comment on the meanness of the person.

    If only peoples’ words were as easy to burn as chametz.