My mother had been know to give me good advice over the years. Simple things to keep my life going in a positive direction. Things like, “Don’t pick at your face it will scar”. And, “Graduate college first before going out to the world”. But the best piece of advice my mom gave me was this, “Never put it in writing”.
Years ago I had a roommate. She and I were good friends and thought living together would be a good idea. While living together she got involved with a guy. The boyfriend used to spend huge amounts of time at our apartment. I began to resent him being there all the time. I discussed it with my friend and informed her I was going to move out if he remained. The guy didn’t work. He just hung around our place.
My friend told me the guy was welcome at her house. I told her I was moving out. I gave her notice and off I went. The situation was obviously much more dramatic than I described, but you get the idea. After about a month of living in my new place I received a letter. It was from my former roommate. In the letter my friend wrote how furious she was with me for leaving the apartment. She called me several ugly words and demanded I pay her the amount for the bills from the apartment. When I read the letter I was angry. She was the one who decided the guy staying at our house was more important than our friendship or my discomfort. And yet she blamed the entire situation on me.
I spoke to my mom about the letter. I told her I was going to write a letter back to her and tell her just what I thought of her accusations. My mother looked at me and said her now famous quote, “Never put it in writing”. She told me to let it go and send her the money. My mom explained to me if I put anger into a letter the person will be able to re-read the emotions for many years to come. I was reluctant, but I followed her advice. I sent the money and wished her well.
Many years later I saw my roommate at the university we both attended. Actually, she saw me first. She walked up to me and said hello giving me a hug. She mentioned how glad she was to see me and apologized for the misunderstanding many years ago. The guy turned out to be a bum and she regretted ever dating him. I was so happy to see her and we talked for quite some time catching up on our lives.
When my friend walked away I thought of my mother’s advice. I was grateful I’d followed it. I had once made the mistake of writing a letter to someone instead of having the courage of speaking to them on the phone or in person. The friendship was deeply damaged for many years until finally I was forgiven.
As I venture into the world of writing I see how people are so attracted to it. It’s wonderful to be able to clearly put your thoughts down, edit so the words are most powerful and send it off for someone to read. It’s easier to write something difficult than face the person because you don’t have to deal with the emotions. But there are times when the written word isn’t appropriate. This is especially true with relationships. A letter, text or email can’t convey the person’s perspective of a situation as well as a speaking to them in person. In person communication become clearer, even if it’s more painful.
Writing leads to many misinterpretations. Re-reading hurtful words over and over does not lead to peace. It only creates a situation where more fuel is added to something already burning. We have become a writing society. We send emails, text messages and write posts on Facebook. We fool ourselves to think we really understand a person by reading something they have written. But the truth is we can’t know all about a person until we speak with them on the phone or sit across them to watch the facial expressions, touch their hand, see a smile, or hear fluctuations in their voice.
I mentioned to a friend yesterday I no longer save hurtful letters, angry texts or disappointing emails. Keeping the negative words available for me to re-read over doesn’t benefit me. When we speak to someone on the phone or in person eventually the hurtful words will get forgotten. Some words remain, but not all of them. It’s the forgetting that allows us to move on.
I write because it allows me to express myself in ways I never knew were possible. I am grateful for that. But when it comes to matter of the heart I will remember my mother’s advice.
It is good advice for all of us.