I Don’t Remember Saying This

As I rounded the corner last week, I happened upon my neighbor unloading groceries in her driveway. We engaged in some idle chat and for whatever reason, she reminded me of something I had said to her when she was diagnosed with cancer ten or so years ago.

The day I heard of her health struggles, I stopped by to deliver a meal to her family on my way home from work. She specifically recalls me reassuring her during that visit that, “Everything will be okay.”

IMG_5786I said that? What in the world was I thinking? That was kind of a happy-clappy thing to say. Looking back, it seems downright presumptuous.

Thankfully, my friend derived comfort from my words then and apparently still values them today.

And I don’t even remember saying it.

By God’s mercy, everything did turn out okay. There was surgery, chemo, and all the miserable stuff that goes along with it, but she eventually went into remission and continues to live her life with contagious joy.

I started thinking: That forgotten comment at least had a happy ending. How many other things have I said along the way that didn’t have such a positive result?    

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I thought of another instance, a few years earlier, when my words had a much less desirable outcome. In this case, I remember what I said, it’s just that at the time I failed to consider how it would be taken in by a very tender heart.

I had a 1995 Jeep Grand Cherokee; it was the first brand new car I had ever owned and I loved it irrationally. (I know that’s a form of idolatry; don’t judge.) In my over-the-top enthusiasm, I was always flippantly sharing – with whoever would listen – how much pleasure that car gave me.

One chilly night in the church parking lot changed all that. I was chatting with a friend after the service and had given my young daughter the keys so she could wait for me in the car. Suddenly, she came running back to where we stood, panicked. I immediately began to scroll through all the worst case scenarios in my mind. Dread clawed up in my throat as I turned to her, concerned she might be seriously hurt. “What in the world happened?” I asked,  the back of my neck tingling.

“I locked the keys in the car! I’m so sorry!” She was sobbing uncontrollably. 

Was that all? Relief flooded through me like an electric current and I thought my knees would buckle. “Oh, honey, that’s no big deal, really!” Her reaction, though, was what broke my heart:

“But Mommy, I know you LOVE the Jeep!”, she choked out through her tears.

Oh dear. Had I really given her the impression that I loved that SUV so much I would get mad at her for something so minor as accidentally locking the keys in it? I would sooner have rolled that thing right off a cliff than to have her believe it was more important to me than her, and I told her so. 

“Cash for Clunkers” claimed that Jeep a decade or more later, but my silly proclamations of love for it still come up in family conversations.

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The truth is, I love words. I love to compose, communicate, clarify, and create. My admittedly-lofty goal in life is to “honor my Maker with all I make”. I wish I could believe that my words have been more often encouraging than damaging, but I have to wonder.  When have I not used them to honor my Maker?

I’m painfully aware of plenty of situations when my words have harmed instead of helpedSometimes it’s been unintentional, like the Jeep example above. I was careless with what and how I expressed myself and didn’t pay close enough attention to who was listening.

On the other hand, there have been times when I’ve been hurt or tired or feeling all self-righteous, and my words have taken on a sharp edge. Yes, I’ve been known to use them as a weapon and I’m not proud of that.

Growing up in the South, we were frequently reminded, “Mind your manners, mind your mama, and mind your mouth.”

While that may not be a direct quote from scripture, I think the values are pretty Biblical, don’t you?

Words matter. A lot. What we say just might make a lasting impression, even if we don’t remember saying it or we didn’t really mean it. 

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About Diane Rivers

Diane is a native Floridian whose career as an FBI Agent got her transferred to the North. She's retired from that gig now and "repurposed" as a freelance writer, author, and sometimes poet who blogs about the bumpy, bone-jostling ride of her “workaround” life. She loves Jesus, her family, black coffee, kayaking, biking, and hiking, and she looks forward to eternity with the One who will make all things beautiful. (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

8 thoughts on “I Don’t Remember Saying This”

  1. Ahh, if I had a dollar for every time I wished I could take back words that came out of my mouth I could retire & travel the world! You are so correct in saying that words are important and make an impact on other people. The important thing is to remember to try to do better and to also remember the times when our words have had a positive impact. That is not always the easiest thing to do as we tend to dwell on the bad instead of the good! As always, an excellent reflection you have shared, giving me a reminder to “mind my mouth”! Love it!!

  2. Sometimes I think we have a sense of what will happen. Or ar least what the person needs to hear at the time to get them through.

  3. Hi Di – I remember a trip I made to Chicago several years ago at your generous invitation. It was a particularly hard period of my life and I just felt like you entertained me so I did not have to think about things. I never felt judged and we did not speak of deep things too much as I just wasn’t up to it and you sensed that. Bryan, you and I were out for a day of activities and in a store I found a card with a woman saying “Yoo Hoo has anyone seen my sanity” – it was so spot on and the first hard laugh I had in awhile. So thanks for the memories, the trip, and the intuition.

    1. I totally remember that trip and that card — and how we laughed till we cried. Even days later, all we had to say to each other was “Yoo Hoo!” and we would start laughing again. I’m glad you made the trip back then and glad it was in some way healing for you. Friendship is such a gift. Thanks for commenting!

  4. Thanks for this. Your post reminds me of the observation (probably not scientifically proven but true to my experience) that we take negative comments to heart far more quickly than positive ones. in a similar fashion, I think we are more inclined to remember our slips than our stellar moments. Thankfully God’s memory works in an altogether different fashion!

  5. So much about God is counter-intuitive to us in our humanity. And isn’t that a wonderful thing?! Glad you pointed out the difference especially when it comes to memory. God is gracious, always.

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