The words fell out of my mouth while all the neurons in my brain shouted, “Wait! Stop! Too much!” But it was no use. I said it anyway. Willpower has nothing on a fool’s tongue. And there, in that all too familiar pregnant pause of awkwardness, the words suspended in the air while I driveled out more meaningless chatter trying to hide what was just said.
I had done it again. Said something so stupid that I am kicking myself now. I wish this was a new feeling but it’s one that has become my happy bedfellow: this foot in mouth problem. *sigh* And now I’m replaying the incident over and over in my brain and intensifying the interior self-flogging for being such an idiot.
The situation wasn’t even that big of deal really.. I was at a social function—alone without husband or children (!)— feeling childish for filling myself a cup of hot chocolate when my pastor walked in the room. He makes me nervous. I tend to say stupid things if I’m nervous. While a good man and devout priest, he is extraordinarily busy and I always feel like his brisk conversation means I need to fill the precious half minute that I have of his attention with something interesting or witty to say. (Why do I feel that way?!) What came out of my mouth? The asinine. “Don’t judge me Father.” His confused look made me have to blather out an explanation about filling a cup of hot cocoa at a late hour and it being so sugary and I know how healthy he tries to be. Blah. Blah. Blah. It was not a well-articulated greeting to my priest. Unfortunately, he’s heard me a say a number of things I wish I could take back by now.
This was just a teaser for the next stupid thing I said. See, he was introducing me to someone, because he believes strongly in helping new people make connections and there was a new person there. A young man, about my age or a wee bit younger. Single. I dumped the words “Oh, I was so excited to see Ashton Kutcher coming to Mass!” Idiot. Confused looks from the men ensue. Me realizing how odd and flirty that sounded begins to turn red. So I do the best patch up job I can muster by uttering more preposterous blather about how from the back he looked like Ashton Kutcher, but he clearly looked nothing like him from the front. “I mean, your face is TOTALLY different.” (What brain comes up with this brilliant recovery?!) And oh, ahem, so what did Mr. Not-Ashton Kutcher do for a living or what brings him to the area? (Meanwhile, I’m scanning the room for a social helper… faking disinterest so the implications of the weird insult-flirting would go away.) Where were my children!!!
Anyway, the whole thing was awkward and my boys finally did show up and my marital status was quickly solidified, but my fool status has begun to develop a greenish patina.
I know this wasn’t as bad as the time I told someone that her newborn baby girl looked like Chewbacca (Hi Kathy!) but it still had me doing the post-gaff beatup routine. And then me feeling guilty for spending so much mental time on agonizing over this. And I’m tired of this.
I can’t seem to find a cure for my verbal diarrhea (I have often fantasized about how wonderful it would be for me —and the world— if I was a mute) but I can do something about how to respond to this character defect. I’m convinced that God wants to use this as a source of constant surrender and humility. Letting go. So all my foot-in-mouth friends should pray with me to rid ourselves of the mental anguish over thoughtless words.
- Let go of the need to be clever, witty or even interesting.
- Don’t fill empty space just to fill it. A smile pads a lack of conversation just fine sometimes.
- Stop wasting emotional energy over things have already happened and words already said.
- Stop trying to craft the perfect impression of who you are on the world.
- Don’t trip over your tongue! Zip it up!
- But you will mess up. And people may get the wrong impression (or think you a jerk). This will happen. And you will have to let it sometimes.
- Apologize if appropriate and move on in a gracious manner.
That’s all you can do. Allow these stings to your dignity shape you and sanctify you… surrendering all your blemishes to Christ at the end of each day and promising to try again tomorrow.