Sunday, June 15, 2008

Somtimes ya gotta hurt feelings

The number one value in my family is compassion--compassion for ourselves, each other, and for those we don't know. That means many things.
1. Forgive yourself. We often make mistakes and the hardest part of making a mistake is forgiving yourself, but you have to do it.
2. Forgive your family. Sometimes we can't understand a person's unique point of view, but when it is your family you must try. If someone is having a bad day or a bad experience, be supportive and forgive their attitude or sadness.
3. Give people the benefit of the doubt. For example, if someone cuts you off in traffic, why get road rage? Instead remember that you have probably cut someone off before. Maybe that person is in a bad place or having a crisis or maybe they just made an honest mistake.

Given all of this, sometimes you have to hurt people's feelings. This is especially hard for me because I try to have compassion for people in every situation. I was thinking about this after reading an article on MSNBC on preemie births. I was reminded of the first time my oldest daughter got really sick. My daughter has struggled with some fairly serious health problems that doctors have attributed to "an otherwise unspecified immune deficiency." Basically that means that she has a compromised immune system and no one is really sure why. She has since outgrown this condition, but when she was younger, she really suffered.
The first time she got severely ill, she was five months old. I was moving into a new apartment, and she hadn't been feeling well all day, but in the hustle and bustle of moving, we gave her Tylenol and didn't give it much thought--after all, kids do get sick. After we had finished up for the day, we started noticing that she was really lethargic, and being a young, first-time mother, I freaked out. We took her to the hospital on the corner. The emergency room nurse took her temperature in her ear and told me is was 102 degrees and the doctor would be in to see us shortly. Well as time past, she seemed to be sicker and sicker and I was questioning the temperature reading. I went out and nicely asked the nurse for a recheck, but she told me there was no need, and I trusted her--after all she was a nurse. But after sitting there for several hours, I knew something was wrong and asked the nurse to please come check again. Well, she relented and came in. Her fever was now 106.5 and she was septic. She was sent in an ambulance to the nearest children's hospital and it was touch and go for several weeks. I always wished I would have stood up to that nurse, but I didn't want to make it seem like I didn't trust her or understand that she was the expert.
Well after several more hospitalizations, when my daughter turned 18 months old, she had another crisis. Again, they took her temperature in the ear, and said it was nothing to worry about. Again, I knew this was something far more serious. We sat in the lobby for a little while, but I knew that I had to do something this time. Again, armed with my compassion, I asked the nurse nicely to recheck her because I knew something was wrong, but she refused because she was a nurse and she knew better. So, I had to hurt her feelings, and I called a patient advocate at midnight. I didn't care if I hurt her feelings or not or if I woke someone up. My child was sick. Guess what? She had bacterial spinal meningitis and was patient zero in an outbreak. One of the children in the emergency room who had a broken arm actually contracted it. I am glad that I spoke up and did the right thing even though it hurt someone's feelings because it was the right thing to do and probably saved more people from contracting it.
When I called the patient advocate, that nurse was on fire. She treated us horribly and said something about me being a hypochondriac parent and she didn't have time to deal with me. After my daughter was in the hospital for a few days, that nurse came an apologized to me. Maggie almost died. In fact, we were told to prepare ourselves. She pulled through, and I have been forever grateful that I was nasty with that nurse.
The point is that sometimes, compassion just won't work and you have to stand up for what is right even at the expense of others' feelings.
But how do you decide? Well, it is an individual decision, but here are some of my guidelines.
1. Is this an important issue--For example, are you trying to right a wrong. Did your cellphone company really screw you up and now you are trying to fix it, etc. Then yes, you need to stick up for yourself. Compassion is not about being a doormat.
2. Never be mean. You can always accomplish your goal without resorting to eighth grade name calling. There are always avenues to solve your problem. In my example, I used a patient advocate. In different situations maybe you need to speak to a manager or owner or possible contact the better business bureau.
3. Have your ducks in a row. If you are going to challenge someone, make sure you have all your facts and figures together. If you are calling someone out, you want to make sure that you are right.
4. Sometimes people need to know that they are wrong. We all hate to be wrong. We all hate to look foolish or incompetent, but sometimes we all are. It is not a unique experience to be wrong or to do a poor job on something. So, sometimes we need to correct that wrong. As you know, probably from experience, when someone points out that you are wrong--man does it hurt your feelings. So, naturally, when you point out someone else's faults, their feelings are going to be hurt, but maybe it will make them a better person, especially if you do it in the right way.

Remember be kind, be compassionate, but don't be a doormat.

1 comment:

Merchant of Venom said...

3. Have your ducks in a row. If you are going to challenge someone, make sure you have all your facts and figures together. If you are calling someone out, you want to make sure that you are right.

Maybe you should live by what you preach. You are so sweet I got diabetes reading you're blog. By the way. Are you related to Stewart Smalley? I bet a million bucks you are a bleeding heart liberal!