A Dystopian Ideal: Do anything you want, just don’t hurt anyone else.

Ultimate freedom followed by the caveat of non-injury to others. Some people stop at the physical level of hurt. Others may take it across into the mental and/or emotional. (Spiritualists might wish to jump on the lawsuit by claiming injury to that which is everlasting.) But non-physical hurt seems to me less tangible than a beat up face, or a broken arm, or a dead body, and that’s why there is often argument there.

Sticks and stones may break my bones /
But names will never hurt me

I heard that phrase often during my formative years but I think somehow in someway words may hurt. But who creates the hurt? The sender or receiver. Maybe I can bet safe and say a little bit of both. But that’s even money, and I still lose the rake. So I’ll rethink my bet and wonder.

If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

I’ve frankly never understood the dilemma. My answer will always absolutely be: if there is something there that interprets sound (because otherwise sound is not sound, it’s just vibrational movement through air). Much like that, is hurt.

I’m sure I’ve been made fun of, but as long as – much like a neutered dog – I don’t get it, then who’s the wiser? So sometimes it hurts. Other times it won’t – maybe annoying at best.

I’ve said many rotten horrible things to people in my history probably just about as many rotten horrible things were said to me. But this is not about balancing, or evening out, or anything like that. I’m just looking at obvious things. We all have said rotten horrible things to others and rotten horrible things were said to us. I’m sure there are even instances where our best intentions and words were mistaken for poison and we argued severely that we were not saying rotten horrible things; but alas, feelings were horribly hurt nonetheless.

I’ve even said terrible things to people in the name of honesty, truth, or some alleged greater good. Sometimes I knew what I felt needed to be said was going to be hurtful. Other times I wasn’t being mindful at all; I, sans a filter, say the darndest things.

I see four possibilities:

1) The sender says something trying to hurt the receivers feelings and the receivers feelings are hurt
2) The sender says something trying to hurt the receivers feelings but the receivers feelings are not hurt
3) The sender says something but the receivers feelings are hurt
4) The sender says something and the receivers feelings are not hurt

I don’t see a fifth possibility.

#2 & #4 don’t even need to be considered. If the receiver’s feelings are not hurt then the only thing #2 might be concerned with their hurt feelings at not accomplishing their mission.

This leaves #1 and #3, which is what drives all the conflict in our world.

#1 provides the most direct relationship. The sender intends to harm the receiver with words. The sender succeeds. The only issue in this type of a dynamic is how long will the receiver stick around before leaving the sender – or minimizing the interaction. I understanding that certain situations are more difficult to resign from then others, due to a whole wide world filled with circumstance. But at least here, there is a direct relationship based on intent. The question here is proof of the sender’s intent (which is at times difficult to know).

#3 is the least direct relationship. It supposes a sender that is just talking – perhaps mindlessly – but just talking where the receiver is triggered and is hurt. It’s in this case where the receiver is hurt due to their own personal history and personal triggers.

Interestingly enough, the sender in #1 needs to know what hurts the receiver to be successful, but the sender in #3 needs to know what hurts the receiver to know what to avoid (both takes getting to know a person).

So what happens now?

The sender’s defense is dismissing the hurt and denying accountability. And maybe there is no accountability to be had in a sense, as in #3. The sender might causally spit dismissive phrases like: “take it easy, it’s just a joke,” “hey! we’re just talking,” or even “you’re making yourself feel this way.” All valid points. And also all justified ways of thinking for when the sender is being accused of saying hurtful things.

Much like decaf coffee, I can’t easily discern between #1 and #3, especially under the guise of plausible deniability from both parties. So how can we tell?

I don’t think we ever can. However, I personally think that with enough patience from the receiver and understanding from the sender in case #3, maybe the hurt can stop.

One of my good friends doesn’t like it when I use the word retarded. I even remember the conversation we had about it even if he doesn’t. It was probably about twenty years ago. I was less mindful and more New Yorker with my accent, dialect, and speech pattern and I was used to saying retarded this and retarded that. I don’t know how many times I said it, nor how many times he waited patiently (as patience is rarely observed). Regardless of whether it was after the first time I said it or the hundredth time, I obviously remember that to this day and have only caught myself mindlessly blurting it out a few times, but I grow hyper aware afterwards, and take it as a blessing returning me to mindfulness.

Another friend hates it when I crack my knuckles; as I tend to do. For him it reminds him of when someone cracked him over the head with a wooden baseball bat as that was the last sound he heard. It’s like nails on a chalkboard for him. These days and about fifteen years later, I pretty much don’t crack my knuckles around him.

In both of the above instances, I didn’t have to be more understanding or mindful. I could’ve gone on and on about retarded this and retarded that justifying my speech patterns to my friend on a take it or leave it level. I could’ve started cracking my knuckles even more, claiming to help my other friend, stating: just get used to it. But I doubt I’d still have these two good friends to this day.

I’ve said horrible rotten things to people throughout my forty years on this planet. Sometimes I meant it. Other times I didn’t. The times I meant it, well, I obviously didn’t care about that person at that time and had no interest in their friendship or relationship. The other times, well, I just hope that either the person knew me well enough to knew I didn’t mean it. Maybe they shared with me their triggers, their personality, their experiences; maybe they offered me a deeper level of understanding them. I probably took up some of those offerings and probably rejected others, not even intentionally, moreso defenselessly.

Making amends is one of the more selfish acts any person can do. I’ve worked to make amends to people I feel I’ve hurt. At times I wish I could remember more of them. There’ve been times where I’ve even worked my courage up to send a letter, make a call, or meet in person. Sometimes they remembered what I did and forgave me, some times they looked at me bewildered like I was speaking fiction, other times there was no response. I wish to be confronted by those I’ve hurt that I can’t find. But they’re probably over it and have let it all go and I’m the only one holding onto possibility of past infraction unrealized at the time of the action.

So how do I know when I’ve hurt another going forward? Only if I intended to do so? But if I can convince myself that I never intended to do so, then I am free. Actually, I’m free if I can convince other’s I never intended to do so. Unfortunately, I haven’t learned that trick yet.

It’s not about forgiveness from the person I’ve hurt, it’s about making amends and what can I do to mend things, to just have the door left ajar, or maybe a window opened, any deed that I might do to make my past right and perhaps be invited back into this person’s life. So I offer a part of me, whatever I might do, if my past comes back to serve me a righteous bill. Otherwise, I work to grow mindful of my current ongoing relationships. I work to be patient knowing that just because I get triggered, doesn’t mean it’s intentional, and just because I trigger others, it’s not necessarily my fault.

Relationships are about who I wish to surround myself with and who wishes for me to be part of their surroundings. We’ll navigate the treacherous minefield of our mutual triggers, habits, and persuasions over time. If we conflict too much intentionally after knowing where our mutual pitfalls lie, we obviously need to distance ourselves. If we however, through rigorous mutual work and communication, grow aware of one another’s triggers, habits and persuasions and know how to navigate around, then a long term relationship will endure.

This is why I don’t talk politics or religion with some friends. This is also why I don’t some sides with other friends. This is why I bring a book to read when I know a friend has consistently been late. This is why I choose to surround myself with people who I know do not intend to hurt me and that they know that I don’t intend to hurt them. Mutually assured survival, as opposed to destruction. Non hurt: Guaranteed!

My last point is regarding people that will do unto others but will scream like a crying little bitch when the same is done to them. Thankfully, the older I get, the easier I spot them. I turn around fast and run for the hills getting away from them, because I know that if I stick around it’s just a matter of time before I either pop them in the nose or pop myself in the head!

Zen Hard and thanks for reading!