Hurt has been flying around our house lately like it’s going out of style. I don’t know whether it’s the stress of the holidays or if it’s just one of those down cycles we tend to go through. But either way it hasn’t been easy as my boys hit and scream in each other’s faces and my girls spew hatred at each other, deliberately choosing the right hurtful words.
We’ve talked about kindness many times before and the responsibility of caring for other people. “Sorry” and hugs and kisses are a regular occurrence in our home but I know that while sorry is the right thing to do, it doesn’t necessarily fix anything.
So I decided to take some time with my girls to discuss the need to care for other people’s feelings.
I gave each of them a brand new piece of paper straight out of the package (a rare and special treat in our house) and asked them to write down how they want other people to treat them.
I prompted them with thought starters like “I want other people to…” and “Others should treat me…”
They then traded papers and read their sister’s feelings aloud. I asked “do you understand how your sister wants to be treated?” They both nodded.
“Then say ‘I don’t care!’ and crumple up your sister’s feelings.”
They both looked at me incredulously, shocked that I would ask them to do something like that to their sister’s work (typically a severe offense in our house.)
But they both did as I instructed, and I explained “when you do mean, hateful or hurtful things to other people, it’s the same as taking their feelings and crumpling them up.”
“Now, how do we fix it? What do we do after we hurt another person’s feelings?”
My seven year old piped up, “we say we’re sorry!”
“That’s right, we try to fix it by saying sorry or showing the other person love and kindness. So, how are you going to fix your sister’s paper?”
“Smooooth it out!” she said.
“Go for it!” My girls quickly realized, though, that they couldn’t just smooth the paper back out. No matter how hard they tried, the wrinkles were still there.
And that’s exactly how it is with people’s feelings. No matter how hard you try to smooth over hurt, the scars of the pain will remain. No matter what you do, or say, once you’ve wrinkled another person’s feelings, those marks will always be there.
After we talked about how important it is to take care of other people’s feelings for a while, I asked them one last question: “what happens if you crumple up and try to smooth out that piece of paper too hard or too many times?”
My nine year old replied, “it will rip.”
And she’s right, paper that is crumpled and smoothed and abused will eventually get thin and weak, it will rip and be irreparable. And when treated with disregard for too long or or extremely hurtful ways, people can break, too.