My ‘Right Speech’ May Have Wronged You

You did it again, Michael. Opened your mouth about something private in a person’s life and then publicized not only what may have been said in confidence, but also identified them by name. All over the ‘Net for any Tom, Dick or Harry to “get into” their business, which they probably never would have shared with you, had they known what a “big mouth” you can be sometimes.

You can’t be this open. “dumb kopf.” Just because you suffer from bouts of anxiety, depression, PTSD,. hearing loss, and you talk about sexual abuse, traumatic brain injury and obsessive compulsiveness, doesn’t mean that everyone feels as free to discuss it. Many, including  your Self at one time, viewed many a “weakness” as a “stigma,” something you never brought out in polite company.

Hell. You never mentioned it in impolite company, either, now that it’s brought up!

But, we all walk at a different pace, we tread softly on foreign land, getting a feel on how to adapt to new and more open life situations. “Hi, my name’s Michael, and I suffer from nightmares about choosing which injured person over another I should save while at war. My interests include swimming, music and occasional shock treatments.”

No, none of this happened, and you know it, but you can’t expect people to wear frailties on their sleeves. Particularly, when they may need to be discreet to protect their interests or the interest of a family member. They might work at a job that frowns on certain behavior that may be triggered by a relapse.

Do you tell everyone you meet you’re an alcoholic? What about a recovering drug addict?

Yet, in essence, that’s what you did by publishing the person’s mild affliction with no more permission than the Buddha’s father gave him to leave his wife and princely throne to seek alms and Enlightenment. You assumed you were practicing “Right Speech.” when it may have actually been wrong.

But just like the Buddha’s parent, maybe the one you hurt can forgive you and accept this mea culpa.

I’m sorry.

17 comments on “My ‘Right Speech’ May Have Wronged You

  1. […]  After focusing on the topic of “Shame,” I seemed to recall a comment made by a wise and wonderful  woman. (Aren’t most of you — wise and wonderful women, that is? The female side, the more gentle one!) She goes by many names, one of which is Ordinary Sparrow, and she offered advice during one of those dozen times I goofed in public while speaking my mind. (See my-right-speech-may-have-wronged-you.) […]


  2. Lea Strongheart says:

    Dear Michael,
    You had quite a mouth on you when we first met…charming but big. We are all works in progress…and the most important thing to remember..”THERE IS NO JUDGEMENT IN LOVE!” The other thing,”TAKE NOTHING PERSONALLY!” We all make mistakes..Your writings are uplifting..and humbling. In the big picture..what does it really matter?”



  3. Lea Strongheart says:

    Blessed are the merciful….not only towards others but to ourselves. Those of us with ptsd are some of the most in need of tender love and self forgiveness.



    • contoveros says:

      “The quality of mercy is not strained . . .

      ‘ ‘ ‘It helpeths me, it helpeths you . . .”

      Thanks Lea.

      Please accept my bow to you.

      michael j


  4. Shadowplay says:

    Michael, I’m just getting caught up with your blog – just want to give you a big hug and tell you to be gentle with yourself. I catch myself reliving these kinds of awkward moments late at night…Cringing. You’re not alone!

    Here’s to forgiveness, compassion, and knowing that we did the best we could at the time. The stories we tell ourselves are far worse than the actual event, at least in my experience.


    • contoveros says:

      You’re right. I mentioned the person’s name in a story without their knowledge and my old “Catholic” guilt kicked in. What if they didn’t want to let the world know of their months of treatment for their condition? Any one could Google their name and see the ailment associated with them.

      Me. I don’t care. In fact I try to help others with my disorder, PTSD, so I thought anyone talking to me — “telegraph, telephone, tell-a-Contoveros” — would know my public persona.

      I have not heard from the person, but maybe they are not even aware of it, and all of this was simply a trick played by that rescal, the mind, seeking to replace a feeling I want to express to all: not guilt or remorse, but Love.

      michael j
      “former” Big Mouth


  5. sparrow says:

    Michael your post reminds me of a great American Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, he often used the concept of embarrassment. I was looking for the quotes and found this by another Rabbi Jeremy Gordon quoting Rabbi Heschel. . .

    ” The Rabbis teach (Talmud BM 58b) that embarrassment – malbish panim (lit. whitening of the face) is like shedding blood. A huge realm of mussar – Jewish ethical writing focuses on the terrible hurt inflicted by the embarrassment we cause.

    Of course, embarrassment also prompts us to action, indeed it may be the best prompt we have to make our human lives worthy of the gift of our soul. Abraham Joshua Heschel suggests the following.

    How embarrassing for man to be the greatest miracle on earth and not to understand it! How embarrassing for man to live in the shadow of greatness and to ignore it, to be a contemporary of God and not to sense it. Religion depends upon what man does with his ultimate embarrassment, embarrassment not only precedes religious commitment, it is the touchstone of religious existence … What the world needs is a sense of embarrassment. Modern man has the power and the wealth to overcome poverty and disease, but we are guilty of misunderstanding the meaning of existence.”

    I think there is courage in embracing embarrassment. . .

    Embarrassment – when it focuses our minds on the sufferings of others – is no bad thing. Indeed it might be the only thing that can save this fragile world. We need more of it.


  6. Jesse says:

    I have found that remorse is often the heartfelt beginnings to honest change.


    • Absolutely! I bet we have all seen that in our own lives. And in the early Buddhist canon, the Buddha actually talks about that…but it’s all in terms of a whole process of change of thinking and reform.

      A person who feels no remorse or regret for wrongdoing has a long, long road ahead of him or her. When I worked with prison inmates, the ones who were truly remorseful always made the most progress; the wife/girlfriend beaters who saw their violence as justified, first had to begin to see the suffering they had caused in order to break free from their violent minds. As long as they felt their violence was justified, they were caught in a hell-realm where they would surely do it again when they got out.


  7. JhanaJian says:

    Perhaps you should turn to Christianity, Michael. That’s ‘the’ religion that gives us forgiveness and redemption. Right? I’m being a bit flippant, I know. Sorry.

    You’ve surely read by now of Brit Hume’s suggestion to Tiger Woods that he turn from Buddhism to Christianity because Christianity gives forgiveness and redemption. (Assumedly, Buddhism doesn’t.)

    Just one more instance of ‘my religion is better than your religion.’ na na nanana.


    • LOL! Right, Christian forgiveness — except for homosexuals and other “pagans.” Oh, and except for the millions, if not billions, that are to roast in hell for eternity. Oh, and redemption for some, IF they accept Jesus Christ and lord and savior, but if not, again, an eternity in hell.

      Alas, the operative spirit with too many Christians when it comes to “sinners” is that of revenge and punishment, not forgiveness, and this is especially true of the fundamentalist variety so reflected in right-wing politics. You can verify this with the pro-death penalty “Christians” that often stand outside prisons waiting with glee for the execution of some criminal.

      Contrast the eternal hell of monotheistic religions with the Buddhist conception that while a being may create his own hell, he can also create his own heaven, and even final release, and that hope is for everyone, not just those that yield to a psychopathic God whose main claim to fame is His ability to bring apocalyptic violence to all beings and His need for exclusive worship.


  8. Seeing that something we did and having remorse for it is not wrong, or “unBuddhist.” But any accompanying self-hatred or self-condemnation needs to be seen for what it is too. All of that dark stuff has nothing to do with the good heart that wants to do better, and everything to do with old wounds, and probably, our childhood pedagogy.

    I have a very keen conscience, beloved Michael J, but that “keenness” is a two-edged sword and not fully redeemed. I’m very hard on myself for mistakes, especially when I wound an innocent. But true love can’t take sides; it loves the offender and the offended, and only this kind of love can “reform” the one who has hurt another. Likewise, the offended has to some day bring impartial love to his/her side of things.

    Your public “mea culpa” is so dear and sincere, but do take care of your heart, my friend, and then you will indeed be more mindful and harmless in the future. Steve


    • contoveros says:

      I may not have “wronged” the person after all, but only believed I did when I got no response from an e-mail I sent to what turned out to be a “wrong” address. I can’t even talk about what I did without causing the harm I now have hoped that I have prevented by taking the name “out” of the public eye.

      Reality bites sometimes, particularly when you learn it was all an illusion of your own making after all.


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