We are often careless with our words, and some of them are so laden with negative meanings that we cause great harm without realizing it. Recently I began a discussion of such words,
Words that Matter, Part 9
Words that Matter, Part 8
Words that Matter, Part 7
Words that Matter, Part 6
Words that Matter, Part 5
Words that Matter, Part 4
Words that Matter, Part 3
Words that Matter, Part 2
Words That Really Matter
and now we’ll continue:
We use this word often, along with its variations:
“I tried to do it.”
“I meant to . . .”
“I didn’t mean to . . .” (usually some form of mistake)
Is it always wrong to use this word? Of course not, but we tend to use it as an excuse for our mistakes or lack of effort. And although we don’t do this consciously, when we talk about how we tried, we’re usually describing how we’re going to behave the next time we encounter that particular situation or task. We excuse our lack of real effort by saying that “we tried,” and because people usually accept our excuse, we tend to “try”—rather than succeed—the next time.
So what is a solution to this detrimental use of the word “try?” We can begin with the truth:
“I had plenty of time and resources to accomplish the task I was assigned, but I just didn’t do it. I did a lot of other things instead, things I found easier or more fun. Then I anticipated that you would be satisfied—at least temporarily—with my telling you that ‘I tried."
“I did BEGIN to do the job, but I got tired and figured I’d do the rest after giving you an excuse.”
“I didn’t try to hurt your feelings—I didn’t mean to—but I didn’t care enough to think about how my behavior would affect you, either. In other words, I didn’t mean to be hurtful, but I didn’t TRY NOT to be.”
“I did try, but obviously not hard enough.”
When we tell the truth, continuing with the lies becomes much more difficult. There’s no sense talking about what we were trying to do, only about what we DID and whether it worked. If it didn’t work, we can make efforts to correct our direction. What we “tried” to do doesn’t mean much in the face of what needed to be done.