Today at lunch with a small group of six year olds one said to another, ‘I hate you when you say, ‘Oh My God’. Then the immediately looked embarrassed, laughing shyly, she smiled with anxiety at me, she said, ‘I didn’t mean that, I don’t know why said that’. It was clear that she knows saying she hates someone is too strong, certainly to say that about a peer in front of a grown up, but knowing this girl she would probably correct herself without any intervention.
She knows something is wrong in what she said, I offered a gentle solution, ‘Perhaps when someone says OMG, they aren’t thinking carefully about the words they are using just like you didn’t then’, she smiled, relieved that her intention had not been to express hate for another person but hate for those words.
I thought how simple that is, when I say that I understand that she made a mistake she is glad to be seen as a person who made a small error, she doesn’t need to beat herself up further or defend herself further. The wrong words tumbled out of her mouth. Words she has no doubt heard said by others more than she has used, words which she has discussed with an adult and agreed not to use. And she sees that we all get this wrong and as she is gently humbled her feelings about her friend who chose to use the expression are softened to, yes, we all make mistakes, we can identify them and move on with the grace of a six year old.
We can choose to embrace the total human worth of all people, even those whose actions we dislike and when we do that we embrace our own humanity too, we do not need to be perfect, we just need to try our best.