No, Not that wall. I’m thinking of the emotional walls we build that divide us from one another. When it comes to building those walls we are master carpenters. We are so good that we build walls without even knowing we are doing it.
I had a conversation with a family member a few years ago about something that I did when I was 13 or 14. Believe it or not, back then I wasn’t much of a diplomat. I made a joke at the family member’s expense. She never said anything to me at the time, but the comment I made hurt her. She was going through some tough things already and my comment crushed her.
I was completely unaware. A minute after I said it, I’d forgotten all about it. She didn’t harbor resentment for 40 years, but she told me that she did for 4 or 5. It kept her from feeling safe enough around me to share things that were important to her. Who knows if she would have anyway, after-all, we were teenagers, but that’s not the point. The point is that without even being aware of it I had built a wall between us.
All of us, at some point in our lives have unknowingly built walls and caused people pain. Some people carry that pain, and pain’s byproduct, resentment, their entire lives. Meanwhile, the person they resent may be completely oblivious to the pain they inflicted. The person who suffers is the one holding on to resentment. I think whoever said, “Holding onto resentment is like taking poison and expecting someone else to die” had it exactly right.
I felt awful when I was told about the pain I caused, but I was glad she told me. It reminded me that words and actions matter. Sometimes it isn’t enough to listen with our ears. We need to listen with our eyes and heart too.