Deciding What To Do When You Know Something You Can’t Unknow

I had half of a fantastic post written, prompted by my middlest’s decision-making method of late: endless rounds of eeny, meeny, miny, moe. Words came easily as I reflected on the nostalgia-wash I got every time facing decisions as important as which sucker to choose at the bank sent him into another round, watching his eyes dart back and forth over the options, his lips mouthing the words. It felt like classic childhood.

Well, to me, at least.

I did a quick search of my best-guess spelling for the phrase. Trusting Wikipedia to be a foolproof source for queries of this nature, I clicked on the top result and Wikipedia did not disappoint, selecting one spelling as primary and offering variations. I continued writing what I’m sure would have been a top-notch post.

But when I clicked back to the Wikipedia tab to reference something, the controversies section caught my eye.

ControversiesOver a child’s selection rhyme?

Call me clueless, but I shook my head in disbelief. I almost didn’t read them, because it seemed altogether unbelievable. Eventually, though, as it usually does, curiosity got the best of me, and I took the bait.

It turns out, there has been some history with the rhyme. Intentional and possibly unintentional ties to racism. I had no idea. Now, I’m not doing an all call for this rhyme to be silenced in our children. But it made me stop and think. 

I had no idea, but then suddenly I did. Suddenly I knew something I couldn’t unknow.
Unexpectedly, I was faced with a decision — one that deserved more thought than a sing-song rhyme could ever determine.

Did I keep going with my post, making some tie-ins to decision making and some pithy thoughts on parenthood at the risk of flippantly offending someone more familiar with this controversy, someone where the mere mention triggered deep pain in his or her own story? Perhaps no one who stops by MBP has even heard of such controversy. Should I really toss all those great lines simply because I mightmaybepossibly, on-the-off-chance, unlikely would offend someone?

And it was decided yes. Yes, it was worth tossing my lighthearted post and flippant handling of a childhood phrase simply because it might.

Now I know, it feels to some like we have to tiptoe around these days. Tiptoe across every topic, because each one is a minefield. Every word carries connotation. Every term carries a second meaning or a horrible connection. And every perspective is without, well, perspective. Some complain that we are a thin-skinned society, overly sensitive, prone to being the victim.

And it may very well be. Present company included.

But shouldn’t awareness lead to compassion? Shouldn’t knowing someone’s pain lead to sacrificial consideration? Isn’t that what it is to be in relationship with people? No, not to walk around on eggshells, unable to speak for fear of insulting. But hearing the wounds of those around us and being mindful to not heap more hurt?

We can’t trash every phrase or image, story or rhyme simply because someone somewhere has associated it poorly. But surely we can take notice of how we speak, how we joke, how we behave and do our darndest to lift one another up instead of tear one another down.

Are we even hearing each other’s stories or are we always defending ourselves, missing others’ points altogether?

Are we living with eyes wide open, mindful of how our words and actions land on those around us?

Are we cataloging what we do hear into a part of our brain resolved to care more for people than for our own agendas?

What about going out of our way to handle with care: to ever-so-gently carry the stories, the pain, the triggers we learn from others and deal with them in kindness. Why does someone else’s pain so quickly threaten our way of life?

We’re a broken people, and until that reality pushes us to speak more sensitively and act more intentionally, our own brokenness will always speak louder than the brokenness of those around us. We’ll always choose what’s best for us, regardless of how it lands on someone else.

And there’s nothing more childish than that.

2 thoughts on “Deciding What To Do When You Know Something You Can’t Unknow

  1. Wow. Love the fact that you moved from cutesy to critical with the turn of a phrase. Great perspective, my friend. Our brokenness should remind us of our own tenderness. Our own hurting hearts. How often does that really happen, though? Especially in a country where our childishness is honored and not reprimanded.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.