Thursday, September 10, 2009

Mean what you say, say what you mean but don't say it mean

I watched the President's speech last night. I am interested in what he has to say. I am interested in the reactions of those in Congress. I am curious as to whether the two parties will be able to come together for the good of the nation. The divide lately seems as big as the Grand Canyon.

But that's not what I wanted to write about. I am writing about the elected official from this state who shouted out, "You lie" after a remark by the President. It appears that Rep. Joe Wilson shouted this out in an emotional moment. He has since apologized for his outburst.

I guess everyone who is in politics has to develop tough skin. Things can't be taken personally. And I've found over the course of being in a career that can have its controversial moments, the natural reaction is to react when something is said that goes against core beliefs. And in dealing with alcoholism, I've found that reaction was how I lived every day. I often felt misinterpreted, misunderstood, and reacted because I felt the need to take a defensive posture. That is how it used to be and for many still is the primary reaction.

So I thought about Rep. Wilson's inappropriate and rude reaction. He obviously feels passionate about the health care issue. But I am reminded of what we say in Al-Anon which is to "say what you mean, mean what you say, but don't say it mean."

Often I've used the wrong words in the heat of the moment. I haven't really said what I meant at all. I wish that I could take back those words that came out of my mouth. I clearly needed to learn to mean what I say.

I have learned to reflect on the intent of what I say. I like the idea of believing in what I am saying enough so that the true message will be clear. If I don't really believe in what I'm saying at the moment and I'm just caught up in some drama, then I need to hold my tongue. The right moment will come in time. I'm sure that Mr. Wilson is reflecting on the idea of restraint of tongue (and pen) today.

And finally there's the key which is to not say something mean. I have looked back after an outburst and wished that I could take back the words that were said. Now I can THINK about what I'm going to say and not bypass reason in order to deliver a knock out punch with words.

So yes, I can be passionate in my beliefs, and yet I don't have to personally attack anyone, even if there are major differences. I have found a much more effective way to communicate. And maybe the other person will see my side of things or even admit that there is more than one viewpoint, if I am clear in what I say, reflect on what I am about to say, and say it without vengeance or rancor. I think that offers more in the way of reconciling differences.

"The man we feel most self-righteous toward may be the man we could learn the most from. When we stop focusing on him, we may notice he touches our most sensitive area. We're all creatures of God and equals in God's sight. The ways we create inequality are the ways we fall short of God's wisdom." Thought for the Day


  1. Great post, Syd. When you wrote "...just caught up in some drama..." I thought of instances when I was in that headspace of hot anger and drama, and now wish I'd had the wisdom to say nothing.

  2. I needed these words today. I've been dealing with a serious betrayal of friendship lately and believe me you, I've tried very hard to stay to the facts and not the emotions. But as I see the water ripple from the effects of one person's meanness, I have full on head first decided, NOT WORTH IT. My hubs has wiped away more than one tear over our 13 years of marriage. Through the pain others bring us, we have learned to treat each other with a much higher respect. This alone has saved us from many potential arguements.

    Your quote~Fantastic. Sadly, not followed by many therefore, tension.

  3. Really great post. I've never heard the quote "say what you mean, mean what you say, but don't say it mean" before but I think that it's one that can be applied in any situation. Also, you brought up the idea of not taking things personally. I think that's really important...Check out The Four Agreements if you haven't already. It's a great book!

  4. Syd, you're the best! I am the QUEEN of opening my mouth before I think! Although Annie's death knocked the snot out of me and having been subdued by so much pain, it has given me enough space to be able to think abit more and I am so much better. Suprisingly enough, blogging has helped with this too! When I read what I have to say, by the time it's written I realize I was reacting and I can "delete' before I hurt someones feelings.( most of the time)
    Such fine words of wisedom from my favorite southern gentleman. Thanks!jeNN

  5. Awesome! I know just what it is to say things in the heat of the moment, I learned the principle the loudest squeak gets oiled a long time ago and I took it too much to heart in my communications...

    Thinking, things won't be ok if I don't get HEARD... RIGHT NOW!

    I hope and pray that I'm getting better at restraint of tongue and pen and hope that I spend more time in prayerful consideration rather than considering prayer.

  6. Wouldn't it be something if politicians were to learn to practice the principles of a 12 step progam in all their affairs?

  7. I use this phrase a lot. I discuss it with sponsees all the time and I try to think about it 'before' I speak.

    Thanks for a great post, as always.


  8. One of the best suggestions I heard early on was instead of engaging in a fight, I could say, "You know, you may be right. I'll have to think about this.". A very powerful 12 words.


  9. Syd:

    Nicely thought. Nicely said.

    Mr. Wilson might have learned that he place for unrestrained passion might not be in front of this president...

    Blessings and aloha...

  10. Well written, Syd. I love this saying that I heard in AA ...
    "We can't control the first thought that we have but we can certainly control the second thought and act accordingly."

  11. "say what you mean, mean what you say, but don't say it mean."

    I love that saying. Great post hon and thank you for the reminder. I'm dealing with someone right now that I truly need to keep this thought in mind. (Hugs)Indigo

  12. This poor man will go down in history. People in this country are feeling that they have to scream to be heard. I wonder why.

  13. excellent post and great photo! it's a good thing i'm not in congress- i definitely don't have the emotional control necessary for such a heated job

  14. awesome post, i think i love our president more then when i voted, campaigned and caucused for him.
    unfortunately our media leaves something to be desired. i can't stand the lies any more, blatant lies on the health care bill. i have copy of it on my computer and some of the lies fox news is just spewing makes me sick. it reminds me to be passionate, to make the calls to congressmen and to do what i can to get the truth out. i know how that guy felt, who screamed at Obama, i have been there myself in service meetings, it is funny our service meetings teach us how to communicate and what doesn't work, so in the real world we don't shout out like we are at a town hall meeting.
    communication is so hard for me, but i am still trying. the best way for me to tell Wes what i am feeling is in an email, then i am clear headed and not screaming, i can look back at what i wrote and make sure it is what i need to say. i don't like it but for now it works, hopefully soon i can use my own voice in a loving and caring way.

  15. Your words guided me to do doing something bigger than myself tonight after a long 6 week battle. Thank you.

  16. perfect words here. being passionate doesn't mean having to be mean...

  17. I have often spouted off in the heat of the moment. Thankfully I am learning restraint, which has opened my eyes to the fact that my gut reaction to a situation or a person is often false, and can cause harm to those involved, me included.

  18. Never speak the truth in a way that will hurt others. ~Swami Muktananda

    I heard that quote some time ago. It says it for me.

    Something has to heal the schism in this country. To do that we have to be willing to heal.

  19. Wonderful post. Much to digest. More to apply. It is good that Congressman Wilson knows how to do Step 10. We should at least give him credit for that. Right sentiment, wrong venue= poor decision and consequences. Now if his fellow members can react with restraint and tolerance,.....naw. Just watch the show. Much to learn.


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