Everyone burst into laughter except Mom. Once again, Pinny had spilled his Kiddush wine on the Shabbos tablecloth. But even though Mom was visibly upset, she refrained from name-calling or saying anything that would hurt her son’s feelings and perhaps damage his self-image.
Dad’s reaction was different from the rest. “Baruch Hashem our beautiful table is covered with a cloth!” he exclaimed. “It’s no big deal — tablecloths were made to be spilled on!”
His excitement and feigned glee brought on another round of laughter and even Pinny smiled.
Some people spill things because they’re nervous. Others have accidents because they’re not so coordinated. There are those who are just careless. One thing is certain: although accidents happen for a variety of reasons, they are certain to occur. What’s important is how one reacts to the damage caused by another’s mistake.
The first response should be damage control. Whatever the mishap, quick response can limit the negative consequences. Then one is able to deal with the perpetrator calmly and productively. If one must discipline a child, one should be sensitive to his or her inherent shortcomings, such as undeveloped coordination, lack of experience and the general carelessness of youth. If the individual to be spoken to is an elderly person, one should be extremely sensitive to his or her feelings. An individual who took care of others and lived many productive years may feel insulted if spoken to condescendingly. Love and respect are the guides to successful avoidance of hurt feelings.
Of utmost importance is to avoid “labeling” the person with negative terms such as “clumsy” or “dumb.” One can control oneself best by pausing before speaking. In that moment, consider that the person whose behavior is upsetting you is probably also upset and embarrassed about having caused you trouble.
One More Second: Another Thought for the Day
Suffering is a substitute for prophecy. The purpose of suffering is to teach us to improve. Suffering is an agent of the Alm-ghty to enlighten our path. A person who experiences suffering should examine his behavior…The way to check is to look for “measure for measure” to find something improper for which he might deserve suffering. (Harav Avraham Grodzinsky, Toras Avraham, p. 28)