Last weekend I had the joy of having wisdom teeth extracted. Allow me to say, in all seriousness, that I prefer childbirth without pain meds to pretty much any kind of dental work, with full anesthesia. I don't respond well to pain meds. They make me loopy and moody, and often don't even make much difference with the pain. These extractions were under general anesthesia because one tooth was sideways and messy and they had to take out a small portion of my jawbone along with it. Things went well, but I'm am feeling whiny still, in spite of copious amounts of ice cream.
Perhaps you have noticed this--if I had ever taken physics (shudder) I'd probably know the name of the law for it--there is a special force of attraction exerted by injured body parts that compels further injury by anyone in the vicinity, despite their own intent. I first noticed this in childhood when a toe nail came off. I was positive that every single time my mom passed it, she stepped on my foot.
Now, anyone acquainted with my mother would dispute that. She is one of the most tenderhearted people I've ever met, far more so than I, and the idea of her purposefully hurting anyone is ludicrous. Nor is she so clumsy as to keep doing this accidentally (maybe once or twice, but certainly not over and over).
A similar occurrence took place with my sore jaw last night. Joelito smacked me in the jaw, and Elena headbutted me three times. Lest you get the wrong idea, this happened right after turning out the light. It was dark and they didn't see me. They had no intention of hurting me whatsoever. Joel actually cried for several minutes afterward when he saw that it hurt. Just as in the case with my foot, I was so sensitive that I noticed any incidental contact that probably wouldn't have even registered if I were not already sore.
This isn't limited to physical issues. Once I saw a couple of guys teasing each other, and happened to glance at one's face in the split second before the pain left his eyes. Now, the other guy was his best friend, and a genuinely nice person. He would have been horrified if he had realized that his words wounded his friend.
We've all seen those cruel barbs that are passed off as "just kidding" when everyone listening knows that they are meant to dig. This wasn't like that. It wasn't vicious or truly meant to hurt. Just gentle ribbing. And, if the friend hadn't been already tender in that spot, it wouldn't have hurt at all. But he never spoke up and said that it hurt. He hid it so quickly that his friend didn't see it.
I've been thinking a lot lately on the admonition from Galatians to bear one another's burdens. There is a full blog post brewing on that, but I'm not there yet. Somehow, though, I think there is something in that verse that ties in to being sensitive to sore spots in the people around us.
The Bible also tells us that each should bear his own burden, and I believe that we are responsible for dealing with our own hurts and letting them heal. So I certainly don't want to guilt-trip anyone into blaming themselves for an innocuous comment or action that just happens to hit a nerve with someone else, anymore than I would want my children to feel bad for accidentally bumping me.
I know, though, that for me it is so easy to miss things and not see the pain that my words or actions can cause, especially when no harm is intended. Maybe, if we open our eyes and look closely, we could get to be part of the healing process for someone close to us. Wouldn't it be wonderful to be able to soothe and help heal damage that might otherwise go unacknowledged? After the accidental bonks on the jaw, Joel and Elena carefully cuddled close to me and showered me with love. Even though they hadn't meant to hurt, their sweetness helped bring healing. What if we could do that, too?