“If he saw it, he didn’t let on.”
I recently read that line in a book and immediately burst into tears. I wasn’t surprised by my reaction though; lines like that always get to me. I’ve always felt that it was an unexplainable feeling. Almost as if I was being subconsciously reminded of an event from a past life, or a forgotten trauma that had lain dormant in the back of my mind.
“If she heard me stumble my words, I couldn’t tell”
It keeps happening. I can’t escape those lines. So I figure I should at least try to explain the unexplainable.
When I read those words, they consume my entire being. In that moment, I can hear every mispronounced word that was brought to my attention, every mistake that was corrected, and every slip that almost went undetected. I’m transported back to one point in time that somehow consists of every moment that made me feel inadequate.
When I hear someone correct another person’s grammar, offer unsolicited advice, or attract attention to someone who has just fallen, my first response is always the same.
I know the answer to that question, but each time I witness moments like this, I can’t help but to wonder. I know the answer is that some people feel small. That humiliating and drawing attention to another person’s flaws makes some people feel as though, for that moment, their own flaws are less noticeable and in some cases nonexistent. I bet that feels good to have a completely confident and self-assured moment. A moment when you feel smart and capable, even if it is at the expense of someone else.
In those moments it’s easy to come up with a believable excuse too. “I was just trying to help. I don’t want them to embarrass themselves in front of someone else,” is a common defense. Sometimes I almost believe them and their story of how they were just trying to be a good friend. But then I look into the eyes of the person who has just made to feel less than and I’m reminded that a good friend knows when to be right and when to show grace.
People fail. People stumble. People make mistakes. Noticing is easy. But what if you tried not to notice? What if you decide that you don’t have to correct or fix someone else? What if you decide to give up your moment in order to preserve theirs? Lose your moment of complete self-assurance for their moment of peace of mind. It’s a selfless act that really requires little effort, but it means so much.
I’ve always been drawn to those who have the strength to be gracious. The ones who continue nodding in agreement when you stutter on a word. The ones who don’t break stride when you trip over a crack in the sidewalk. The ones who, if they saw it, they didn’t let on.