What do you do when you stick your foot in your mouth?

Recently I was chatting with a friend. This friend has two children by adoption, which she’s very open about. We were talking about parenting decisions, and I referred to another friend, saying, “She’s great. She has six kids. Four of her own and two adopted.”

As soon as the words came out of my mouth, I was reeling inside. “What did I just say?” I asked myself. “I just insinuated that to be a real mother is to have carried a kid in utero for nine months.” I don’t think this, but I DID just say it. Now what?

What do you do when you realize you have said something insensitive, even hurtful? Sometimes you realize it that moment. Other times, it dawns on you later, like when you are lying in bed that night.

In the past my temptation was to talk myself into thinking that what I had said was no big deal. “I’m sure it didn’t hurt the person.” “I’m sure they aren’t still thinking about it.” “Our interaction seems so normal, everything must be just fine.” “Certainly to address it with them would just make it more awkward.” I could come up with lots of reasons that it wasn’t worth coming back to what I had said, that it was better for everyone just to leave it alone.

But I’ve become convinced that sticking my foot in my mouth is a moment God ordains to humble me, by me admitting my mistake and seeking forgiveness, so that he can redeem the encounter.

So as soon as I said those words during a kids’ basketball game I was frustrated. My friend was beyond cool and just carried on with normal conversation. The idea kept buzzing in my head. How stupid was I?! My friend is a phenomenal mother, and the love she shows her two adopted kids is in no way secondary to the love a mother feels to a biological child.

So about ten minutes later (that is how long the internal dialogue took) I said, “Hey. At the risk of being awkward, I need to say sorry.”

My friend looked shocked. “What?” she asked.

“Well, I said something really dumb,” I admitted, “and I want to say sorry. I said that my friend had real children and adopted children, and I think that was a really insensitive thing to say. I don’t believe that, but I do believe the words we say matter, so I would like to say sorry. You are a phenomenal mother, and I am sorry I said something that was insensitive and possibly led you to feel inferior. I am really sorry.”

My friend looked surprised. A few tears appeared in the corner of her eyes. “Thank you,” she said. “I appreciate you saying that. But please don’t worry about it.”

I hope that sticking my foot in my mouth will decrease over time, but I also hope that my willingness to quickly humble myself and say sorry will increase. Asking for forgiveness is one of the ways that Christians can set themselves apart as different. Proverbs 14:9 reminds us that “Fools make fun of guilt, but the godly acknowledge it and seek reconciliation.” May we all move towards reconciliation and humility and away from guilt when we next find ourselves with our foot in our mouth.

 

Thanks to my friend for her permission to share this story. 

 

 

One Comment

  1. Susan Early said:

    So true we are all vulnerable to social faux pas, I love that you shared this!

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