Jun 30, 2010

Talk About Miscommunication!

In the excellent book "Nine out of Ten" (Israel Bookshop) p. 116 the author says he grew up with the misconception that his mother did not love him.  She would look at him and repeat a little Hungarian saying to herself which said, "You are as good as you look" or "Your goodness is reflected in your face."  Since he, a child, did not think he was good looking, he assumed others felt the same way and therefore, his mother's saying that his goodness reflected his appearance wasn't a compliment.  Each time she said it, it hurt him.

As all children yearn for their parents' approval, he worked on getting his mother to love him by buying her gifts and in other ways showing his devotion to  her but his feeling unappreciated stayed with him for decades.  About fifty years after the war, in which his mother was murdered, was over, he went over to his sister at a wedding to wish her mazal tov and she introduced him to a woman sitting next to her as "the best Katz in the family" and added, "My mother positively adored him."

The author was shocked at this statement and protested - but she always said that proverb about goodness being reflected in the face and you know that my face was never anything to write home about! The lady sitting next to his sister, who understood the Hungarian saying, insisted that those words were a tremendous compliment.  "They are the nicest words a child can hear," she said. 

This enabled him to think that perhaps his mother had really liked him and had really meant what she said.

Some time later he had occasion to meet the Hungarian ambassador to the United States.  He decided he would take the opportunity to clarify, once and for all, the meaning of the words his mother constantly said to him.  He wrote the proverb down in Hungarian and asked the ambassador to translate it for him.  The ambassador said, "This saying is the nicest, warmest thing a parent can say to a child."  He unburdened himself to the man and said how he always thought his mother didn't like him and how much he had suffered because of it.  The ambassador said, "You can rest assured that your mother loved you more than any of your brothers and sisters, and the proof is that she said this to you often."

Is this not extraordinary? A mother expresses her deep love for her child and the child, rather than basking in her love, feels hurt and unappreciated! How many times do we misunderstand what people are saying to us? What feelings do we have towards people that are based on a completely erroneous understanding of what they said to us? Let us pray that it does not take us decades to appreciate the truly warm feelings people have for us.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing this story. It has a powerful message that I'm sure would speak to most people.
    I think everyone at some time has had such miscommunications in one direction or the other.