“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words may never hurt me.”
What a bunch of malarkey! Words can be devastating.
Ask any 5-year-old after they have been scolded. Ask any child in junior high/middle school that has been bullied. Ask any spouse whose partner has verbally abused them. Ask yourself about the time someone said something to intentionally hurt your feelings. Ask me, who at one point, not meaning to, hurt her best friend with words.
I am not talking about things that you find offensive in the news or that someone posts that is not about you. Or a particular word that offends you. I am talking about a direct attack on you on a personal level.
So why are we taught that saying? It sounds good. As a young child, we are supposed to believe that and repeat it to other children that are being verbally mean to us. It’s almost a taunt, a challenge. But, it does not stop the hurt.
What’s worse is the written word. Email, texts, Facebook and other social media posts. We infer the writers’ emotional intent. Sometimes the words themselves are obviously meant to be hurtful. Other times though the message may not be so clear. That’s where things can get dicey and relationships ruined by one misunderstanding the other.
Let me tell you my story. In 2001 I became engaged to the best husband in the whole world. Yay me! I immediately asked my best friend to be my maid of honor. Duh. Who else, right? And, she readily agreed.
At some point between then and the wedding date, she became involved with a married man. Now, wait a minute. She did not know it at first. In fact, she did not even know it until after they moved in together. By then she is emotionally invested in the relationship. Then she tells me.
Knowing a little about him from before she started dating him and then finding this out sent me into protective mode. I wanted her out of this entanglement immediately. She is my BEST FRIEND. I want the best for her because I love her. So, while talking with her over the phone about the situation I called him “trailer park trash”. She took it personally.
Her retort was to tell me to find another maid of honor. She did not see how she could even attend the wedding now. She didn’t know if we could even still be friends. Talk about devastating.
We are not kids. We are grown women in our early 40s at that point in time. How in the world did I hurt her by calling him a name? She grew up in a trailer park. I knew this. I certainly did not mean that everyone who lived in a trailer park was trash. It was just the first thing that popped out of my unfiltered mouth. I wanted him out of her life.
It took some time but we finally got through this and are still best friends. She did come to my bachelorette party. The wedding was out of the country and since she wasn’t part of the wedding party she declined to attend. That still hurts when I think about it. And, it is my choice to let it continue to do so. I use it as a reminder that we all have different perspectives.
They eventually broke up. He may or may not have divorced before then. I really don’t remember and really don’t care now. I’m just glad he’s gone. She’s my best friend and deserves better. I love her and would never intentionally hurt her.
What can you take away from this? Try to be kind. Try not to speak without thinking. Try not to let your emotions guide your words. I don’t know. What do you think?