This column is about four words I hope my children will never use.
When I was a boy I had a friend named Mike who lived near our farmhouse in Colorado. The surrounding fields offered countless days of discovery and adventure for us.
Mike’s father was always working on motorcycles that he let us ride along the many trails on their property. I loved riding those trail bikes, but it worried my mother terribly. She was afraid I would get hurt. She warned me repeatedly but I knew better, so I continued to ride without telling her.
One summer day Mike and I took off on an adventure deep into fenced pastures. I thought I knew the trail ahead, but as I have now learned, there are often surprises placed in our path. The surprise in my path was a large cow patty.
The motorcycle was moving too fast and I was too inexperienced. I swerved, lost control and was thrown into the barbed-wire fence. As my body tore along the fence the prongs ripped away skin. I landed rear-first on a large stand of prickly pear cactus.
The impact of the accident knocked the wind and senses out of me. I sat stunned and bleeding with cactus spines stuck deep into my bottom. When I saw the blood and torn flesh the pain and fear began to register.
My instincts took over. I stood up, sobbing uncontrollably, and started walking. As frightened and confused as I was, and probably in a state of shock, the one thing I knew was that I needed to get home to my mother.
When I walked in the door, still heaving in tears, the very sight of her caused me to sob even more because I knew what I had done was something she had warned me about.
But my mother did not scold or give me a look of anger. Instead, she looked at me with compassion, love and concern. Immediately she started tending to my wounds. She comforted me with soothing, reassuring words. She took off my torn clothes, stopped the bleeding and used tweezers to carefully removed one cactus spine at a time. She did not stop until every intrusion was removed and every wound bound.
My mother allowed me to share my story with my brothers as if it were a brave and epic adventure rather than the foolish act it really was. She could have used it to chastise or punish me, but my mother never spoke of it with any condemnation. She never said the four words I was certain would come, “I told you so.”
While it was my mother’s example that inspired this column, as I have grown and raised children of my own I have come to the conclusion that a good father, faithful husband and honorable man should never utter the pointed phrase, “I told you so” — not to his children, not to his wife, not to coworkers or friends.
No matter what religion you practice, most people of faith believe there is healing power in gentleness and meekness, and in love unfeigned and kindness without guile. The best people I know strive to emulate these qualities.
The phrase “I told you so” does not reflect meekness or convey love. These four words do not offer mercy, gentleness or forgiveness. And they are not free from guile.
I am thankful for a mother who placed love and compassion over pride and power. I am grateful for the lesson she taught a foolish boy. I am grateful for a wife who reflects this same kind of charity.
I close this column with a quote from fantasy book author Ursula K. Le Guin: “Nobody who says, ‘I told you so’ has ever been, or will ever be, a hero.”
Richard Haddad is Director of News & Digital Content for Western News&Info, Inc., the parent company of The Daily Courier. This column originally appeared as a blog entry on dCourier.com.