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April 12, 2005


Richard Lawrence Cohen

Tamar, I don't have anything in particular to add, because you've said it so well and completely. But as someone who has scolded and been scolded, I want to thank you for saying it.

Also, I too grew up in an antireligious background, and have long felt it to be something I want to overcome.

Adriana Bliss

A very interesting and gut-wrenching topic for a mother in the throes of raising three rule-challenging children, and so well-written, to boot! I've often worried about my lectures bordering on scolding - modern parents try so hard not to be abusive, negative. They are mocked often about their trying to discipline using words of kindness rather than angry words (saying, "Please, Tommy, don't hit your sister with the hammer."). Should we spank? How long should a time-out be for? Can I tell my child, "You're being mean!" if he is? What about yelling? When is it right, when is it not? It's all in our words,, right? Recently, I expressed worry to a good friend about cutting my son's hair (he's 11 and wanted to grow it long as is the style) as a form of punishment. My friend laughed and said she doesn't worry about the psychology. If he fails a class, he's loses the hair. End of story.



Richard, thanks for adding what you did. I love hearing from you!

Adriana, I so much want to write a book called "A Handbook of Guilt for Parents." Don't you think it will sell millions of copies? Parents are made to feel guilty all over the place. I'm sorry if my piece did that to you. It is challenging to know how to parent - we all do the very best we can and mostly it's based on generations of parenting in our respective families. We each find our way through it. Parenting is not a profession. It's a way of being with people we are intimately involved with!

It seems to me, from reading your blog, that you work so hard at understanding yourself. That is one of the best things we can do for our children.

Thanks so much for sharing these feelings of care for your children as well as your fears.


I could not possibly find "emotional safety" if I feared that the other person would leave me. If there is any doubt of the other's constancy then there is an absence of emotional safety. Emotional safety finds its definition for me in honesty of intent. I do not mean always telling the truth. It means more like being honest with what one intends the truth to do. It is no good being honest if you know this will hurt.


"It is no good being honest if you know this will hurt."

Julie, how do we know if the truth will hurt? Could it be that we assume this based on our own interpretation of events, looks, feelings?

And if it hurts? Is that a bad thing? Or could we become closer to one another by understanding each other's pain or where and how it hurts?


Not so much "assume" - more like figure out or decide - and yes I guess it is based on our knowledge of the other person and our interpretation of a relationship.

Sometimes it is a bad thing. I think it is a bad thing if an unadorned truth is told knowing that it will cause hurt. Whereas a retelling that suffers via a sin of omission may not be totally truthful but will support the other instead of destroy.

I agree that we can become closer if we tell the absolute truth but only if that absolute truth is objective. Frequently what is truth is only subjective. Another would not have that as their form of truth.

I think that absolute truth in a relationship is vital. For example, "I no longer love you" is neither subjective nor objective. It is both and the utterer is the only person whose position on this topic matters. However, something like "I really like that cherry chemise on you" is purely subjective. Another: I thought you sang flat tonight. This might be true and there is a good chance that it will be objective. However, what is the intent? To tell the truth come hell or high water? Could you not replace it with, "I have heard you sing better than you did tonight. Is your throat tender?". Instead of saying, "Your opening stanza was nearly inaudible" could it not be replaced with "You become stronger the further into the piece you delved"? This is a sin of omission but it causes less hurt. If we know in advance that it is going to hurt, are we still obligated to tell the whole truth?


I can really appreciate what Julie wrote about knowledge and interpretation. I have found that the interpretation part is easy--the knowledge part is tricky.


All interesting questions. Thank you Julie and Nappy 40.

I, personally, would rather be told what the person really thinks and feels without omission. But that is because sometimes I seem to be able to "sense out" or feel if someone is hiding something from me. I know that Charlie wanted me to say the words to him that no one else would say: "Yes, you are dying, my friend." And then he seemed able to share his fears and feelings which no one had allowed him to do for fear of hurting him.

And then, can "Truth" be objective?

Each person, each circumstance is different, I guess - just as you said, Julie, in your post on emotional safety: "There are probably as many forms of this as there are people."


I can relate to Julie's thoughts but I know that so often for me it's the second-guessing how other people will respond to me that gets me into serious trouble. I can't tell you how many times in an effort to avoid "hurting" someone (MY interpretation of what will hurt them) I end up hurting them way more in the end. I can even point to examples from this week!

As for my own "emotional safety," having big issues with shame, I need to feel that the other person isn't going to "make fun of" my emotions or dismiss them. But I like what Tamar said: "And if it hurts? Is that a bad thing? Or could we become closer to one another by understanding each other's pain or where and how it hurts?" I know I often learn best through pain and hurt. And if I spend too much time worrying about how my statements and actions might hurt others (knowing all the while this is my guesswork) I eventually lose myself completely and am useless to myself and the other person. I'm not condoning malicious intent—but I'm learning that sometimes I will cause hurt and sometimes I will feel hurt. So what? Pain is a great teacher!

(Tamar, for the next book, we'll have to figure out how to footnote blog entries!)


As I see it, one of the good things about pain is it helps us realize where and why we hurt. But that is only if we are allowed to feel and learn the signs so that we are able to benefit from it. If we are taught to hide from, numb out or deny pain, we won't understand what there is to learn. Take anger for example. Anger, if we allow ourselves to accept and understand it, can help us make a stand for personal or societal human rights. It is a productive emotion only if we make peace with it and not see it as something evil. We need our emotions to help us negotiate our lives.

Danny, footnoting blog entries sounds like a great idea. I trust you will initiate its inception!

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