I was talking with an acquaintance today who said, "I made a careless comment that hurt someone else. I feel terrible! My heart hurts and I don’t know how to make it stop. A good friend said I did nothing wrong. He said I had no reason to feel bad because the injured party is just very sensitive. He said I should let it go because it wasn’t my fault. I love him for trying to make me feel better, but he's wrong. I must have done something terribly wrong or I wouldn’t feel so bad. I've felt like crying for hours."
I didn't know what to say.
The bad thing about words is, once spoken, they can never be retrieved. It would be nice if only we could inhale them back to where they came and erase them so they could never be heard. Mistakes are a natural part of learning—just as falling down is a natural part of learning to walk. But sometimes when we make a serious error, we find it hard to forgive ourselves for what we’ve said or done. Yet, we can't make amends if we remain in a cycle of self-blame or criticism. So we must take responsibility for our actions and do our best to resolve the situation. We must first apologize, hoping the person we hurt will forgive us. Then we must change our thoughts and behavior so we won't make the same mistake again.
I finally confided that I'm famous for saying things abruptly, before thinking how they sound. I do it so often that my family jokes about it. I told her that she'll feel better after she apologizes and that she must forgive herself. We all make mistakes!
And then I confessed that I start each day with this prayer: "Lord, please keep your arm around my shoulder and your hand over my mouth!"
She laughed and said, "Thanks. I'll give it a try."