Unintended Consequences

January 18, 2008 — Leave a comment

We’ve all been in the situation. We’ve just said something and no sooner have the words left our mouth than we wish we had a time machine that we could jump in and revert to five minutes earlier. Now, having the wisdom of our mistake, we would never have uttered the words that caused offense. The folly of our error would remain un-experienced and our reputation would remain intact.

If this situation wasn’t bad enough, we now enter the wonderful electronic age where the transgression of writing without thinking takes faux paux to a whole level. With e-mail, a click of the button can be the difference between saving face and losing it. And electronic communication doesn’t give you the benefit of seeing the other person’s response so you can not immediately assuage their condemnation. You have to wait until a surprise of your own finds its way into your inbox to discover that your brilliant humor caused offense and not laughter. And immediately the backpedaling begins.

As someone who tends to have a sharp wit, I find myself in this situation more often than I care to admit. I’ve recently come to the conclusion that a large part of the reason for my sarcastic tendencies is that I’m a woman in a man’s world. Even though I work in a pretty feminine industry (jewelry), most of the people that I deal with outside of the office are men. Additionally as Tom Hanks said about baseball, “there’s no crying in business.” You’re supposed to be tough and as any guy will tell you sarcasm is one of the ways you earn your credentials. People of the male persuasion use sarcasm as a bizarre indication of bonding. I entered their world and adapted. Now, I find my sarcastic tendencies hard to turn off. Even when I try to edit myself, I find my natural response is a sarcastic one. Unfortunately repeatedly finding myself in hot water hasn’t done much to encourage censorship.

Which leads me to my point (if I still have any readers are this stage, they are thinking – it’s about time.) Sometimes there is nothing you can do about unintended consequences. You make a mistake, realize that things weren’t as clear as they first appeared, and you move on. Of course, along the way it’s important to reconcile with those who’ve hurt but as of yet, there is no time machine you can drop into to make the error altogether disappear. When I find myself in these situations, it’s a painful reminder of God’s grace. Somewhere along the way “Perhaps I’m not as wonderful as I originally thought” usually occurs to me and then I’m immediately grateful that God’s grace isn’t dependent on how great I am – and that it covers all consequences even those that are unintended.

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