When I was a kid, saying “shut up” was a punishable offense by my mom. It wasn’t as bad as cursing (which we hadn’t learned yet), but was up there with “stupid”, “jerk” and other namecalls.
I don’t really remember when it started…likely I was badgering my mom about something. I’m really persistant and argumentative and often relentless. I guess she had had enough and came out with “shut up Michelle”. It likely worked like a charm. I mean, if you tell someone for 10 years or so that a phrase is unacceptable and rude and then use it yourself…well, it’s a bit shocking.
From that point on, it was OK to say “shut up Michelle”. Not that my family went around saying it frequently (although they would go through phases when it seemed that they did). For them, it became a joke. Now it was not ok to say “shut up, Barb” and definitely not ok to say “shut up Mom”, but “shut up Michelle” was funny – to them.
Not to me.
Eventually, it no longer shut me up. I guess I got used to it, the way my sister Beth was used to being called Beth even though she preferred Elisabeth. Like a boxer who takes one on the chin, I just shook it off, retucked, and punched harder.
Well, “shut up Michelle” became just another thread in the fabric of my family life. At some point when I was engaged or early in my marriage, I was probably bugging Bill about something. Pestering him in my usual way. My mom was a witness and decided he needed some assistance so she told him to tell me to shut up. She told him that’s what they all did when I got like that. I just gritted my teeth and shook my head.
Now, if my husband were to say “shut up Michelle” would it hurt my feelings? Yes. Did he know this? No. He thought it was some family joke. He had permission from people who loved me to say something hurtful to me. Would he be guilty of hurting me if he said it? Yes, but….
Deep down inside, he knew that I wouldn’t like it. Who would want to be told to shut up? It’s purely and simply NOT a loving thing to say. But everyone said it was ok, and I didn’t say it wasn’t (I only gritted my teeth). So, he is partly responsible, because a careful analysis of the action would show that is wasn’t nice, but the greater error was with those who truly should have known better from the beginning, but instead, turned the hurtful words into a joke and forgot it was hurtful and then convinced my husband that it was ok too.
Fortunately, he only told me a small handful of times to shut up. And it was never done in a hurtful way…it was almost as though he wanted to soften hurtful words with his more gentle manner. The last time he said them, I finally told him that I really didn’t like it. He was so very sorry…wouldn’t you be? I told him “Be quiet”, “Hush up”, even “Silence!” would be so much better than “shut up Michelle”.
And so imagine that for a long time you have been doing hurtful things to someone who loves you most of all. Imagine if you were Bill and you repeatedly said “shut up Michelle” for so long that you had no consciousness of doing it…but of course every time I heard it, it hurt and hurt deeply. And then one day you realize just how badly it hurt me. And now you have this horrible entrenched habit that hurts the one you love best.
We each have right and wrong etched in our hearts. The world says that certain hurtful behavior is OK, so we ignore our conscience and do it anyway. Eventually, we no longer hear that nagging voice that tells us to stop. We think it’s nobody’s business how we act, or that so-and-so deserved the verbal beating we gave them, or that the company with deep pockets can afford it so it’s ok to copy their software. And all the while, we’re hurting the one who loves us most – God. Eventually, we will have to swallow our pride and admit our mistake and beg for forgiveness….or harden our hearts and forever leave behind Love.