Remember Boy George’s “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me” song? I’ve had it in my head all day as I was musing about things we say that we would be better of not saying.
The line: “If I really wanted to hurt you, _____.” This could end a number of ways: “I’d do such-and-such,” or “you’d know it!” or “such-and-such would happen.” Let’s face it: there’s no good way for this kind of line to end. It’s not going to help the situation. We probably mean, “Hey, I’m so sorry: I didn’t mean to hurt you at all.” However, that’s not exactly how it comes across.
Instead of a veiled apology, which may be what it is, it sounds like an open threat: “There’s more where that came from” or “Oh, I could hurt you much worse”–which of course is always true unless someone’s been murdered. At that point, it can’t really get worse, but up to that point, it can always get worse, so this is not a comforting line when a person is distressed.
Any line that starts out with “if I really wanted to” is bad news. “If I really wanted to cheat on you, ____”? No good! “If I really wanted to burn your dinner, __” –even that! Is there any good that comes out of that line? I don’t think so. Do not try this at home! 🙂
Sure, you probably wouldn’t be in as much pain as the other person is from whatever happened, but if someone’s in pain, apologize and move on. “I’m so sorry; I did not mean to hurt you” is a better choice every time.
On that note, I’m sorry; I did not mean to hurt any of you by writing this post of unsolicited advice. I’m not accusing any of my readers of saying it; I just know that I’ve said “If I really wanted to” lines, and I probably shouldn’t do that now that I’ve thought about it.
Stomping out those tongue-kindled fires, one hypothetical conditional at a time,
(Grace & peace!)