There are many little moments in our lives when we don’t have quite the right words to say, or we say too much or too little.
There are also many situations large and small in which others don’t have quite the right words to say to us.
Because we are not all-knowing, we can’t really ever know whether the clumsy things people say sometimes are well-intentioned or willfully ignorant or kindly meant or just thoughtless. We have mercy on others when we choose to forgive their clumsiness quickly. No over-analyzing. No criticizing. No wallowing.
When Michael and I miscarried Kolbe last fall, our friends’ and family’s responses to our loss ran the gamut. Because our miscarriage was relatively early in the pregnancy, I think we probably experienced more clumsy statements of consolation than if we had miscarried an older baby. Someone gently told us that there was likely something really wrong with the baby, and we were lucky that we didn’t have a lifelong special needs child on our hands. Another person commented that it was probably for the best, since we were experiencing some financial stress at the time and a baby would complicate things.
Believe it or not, it was easier for me to let go of my hurt at obviously ignorant or thoughtless statements like that. What took me months to process was that so many people immediately sought to console us by reminding us about how common miscarriage is. I didn’t know how to respond to statements like that in my grief. I think I ended up defaulting to something like, “Well thank you for your kind words.”
I do have peace and healing from my miscarriage at this point. I started to look at the hearts and intention of all of those people who I had felt devalued the short life of my little one by reminding me that he was a statistic. I came to realize that each of them loved me and wanted to help me feel better. For whatever reason, they didn’t quite have the right words to say. But most of them did try to speak from their heart, even if their heart was working from perhaps a sort of social or cultural default response.
We should all have mercy on others when they say something clumsy. Lord knows that we have been the clumsy ones many times, whether we know it or not.
Having mercy on others when they are clumsy means being patient with them, accepting where they are, and making the effort to see the heart behind their words.