I’ve got this nasty little habit that’s gotten me into an awful lot of trouble in my lifetime, more than I care to remember. Now it’s nothing illegal, immoral or fattening, and violates no laws other than those of common sense, but it causes problems all the same. It has to do with my mouth and what comes out of it but has nothing to do with yelling, screaming or cursing although I certainly do my fair share of all three, and I don’t droll or spit when I speak. No, the source of my trouble is the fact that I sometimes allow random, personal thoughts, opinions or reactions, to take verbal form and quickly spring from my lips! So quickly at times that I don’t realize I’ve actually said them aloud until it’s too late. Yep, me and my big mouth!
I was sitting here trying to remember just when it all began and was pretty sure it started during my rebellious teens but then I remembered a second-grade experience when a verbal response resulted in my mouth being washed out with soap. I will never forget Sister Fatima and that gritty bar of Lava soap. I may have a big mouth but that bar barely fit! Yeah, I could have probably gotten away with just a scolding for the comment but oh no, no such luck, I had to go and throw I the word ‘jackass’ into my statement (definitely not an appropriate second-grade word). Oh sure I could have said donkey or burro but no, instead ‘jackass’ came barreling out at the end of my sentence. I knew the moment I said it that I was in trouble. The look on Sister Fatima’s face said it all. My comment was rude enough without attaching an inappropriate word to it. I remember I was the first mouth washing of the year. In fact, I think I was the only one!
I do believe that was the beginning of it all. You’d think I would have learned something from that Lava soap mouth washing, but hey I was just a kid, my teacher’s advice as she scrubbed, “Think before you speak” fell on deaf ears, all I could think about was that horrible taste and the gritty, sand like feeling in my mouth. Besides, I did think before I spoke, that’s how I came up with jackass. No, my problem had nothing to do with the thinking process and more to do with my rapid response mechanism. I had no control over it, responses, smart ass and otherwise, just seemed to spring from my lips. It was my curse.
It went on that way for years and got me in trouble with my parents, teachers and occasionally my friends. I just couldn’t seem to keep my responses to myself. It wasn’t until I learned and mastered the skillful technique of biting my tongue that things got a bit better. To this day I don’t remember exactly who first told me about biting my tongue but they were truly golden words of advice. I seem to recall something about when in a conversation being free to think absolutely anything I wanted, anything at all. The real trick was to keep those thoughts in my head and not allow them to be spoken aloud. That’s where the tongue biting came into play. It sure has saved my butt on a number of occasions.
Through the years holding or biting my tongue has been a useful technique and coincides with that old saying “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Of course, it hasn’t always been easy. There have been times where the temptation to just let thoughts and words fly has been too great and the smart ass part of me wins out and I set my tongue free. I usually paid dearly for my lack of restraint, but sometimes, depending on the situation or whom I was speaking to, it was well worth it!
Of course, that which gives you pleasure can also bring you pain. The real danger in making quick wise cracks or off-handed remarks is misinterpretation. We’ve probably all been there. We make a remark knowing exactly what we mean by it but the listener takes it a whole other way, usually the wrong way. Once spoken, the conversation immediately goes sour, for a line has been crossed, toes have been stepped on and feelings have been hurt. Just like that, you find yourself on the defensive and boy oh boy, do you have some explaining to do!
On a recent Friday night, I found myself in just such a situation. After going out to dinner with some close friends we returned to my home and were enjoying a cold beer and some casual conversation, casual that is until I made a remark about being educated that turned the night around! My remark was not malicious, contained no curse words and was not spoken in anger, it was simply a declaration of a fact intended only to stress a point to one particular individual, not aimed at the whole group. Instead, it was misinterpreted by everyone. And just like that, I was on the defensive, I was the bad guy. I never intended my comment as an insult to anyone or to be demeaning, but apparently, it was taken that way. I spent the next several minutes back pedaled and trying to explain what I had meant but to no avail, the damage was done. I’m truly sorry that I offended anyone. Believe me, it was unintentional. I tell you misinterpretation is a bitch! Guess it would be best if I go back to biting my tongue.
Yep, me and my big mouth, still at it after all these years…