You've probably seen the above photo before. It tugs hard at your heart, and it's so very true. Words hurt. The negative words children hear form their belief system about themselves and affect them for the rest of their lives. It's hard to shake those careless things we were told in frustration or anger... especially if they came from the people who we thought loved us.
Did you ever get angry at your kids and say something in the heat of the moment that you've remembered and regretted ever since? I know I did a time or two. Sadly, once spoken, words cannot be recalled. I remember many hurtful things that have been said to me throughout my life. Words that cut deep and left scars. I wish there was a magic "delete" button that would let you selectively erase memories, clean out all the stuff you never want to think about again. We can come to terms with our past, accept it for what it was or wasn't, and move on, but we don't forget, not really.
If you grow up in a home where hurtful words are part of everyday language, it's likely that you'll become an adult who is equally adept at slinging cutting words, especially if you feel hurt, or angry. That's how you saw your role models handle their emotions, and that's what you learned about how to deal with situations in life... lash out at somebody, whoever happens to be nearest... often that somebody is someone you love and care about, someone you have a relationship with.
I had an ex who used to say I had an "acid tongue" when I got angry. I know that it was true back then. You hurt me, then by golly I was gonna hurt you back. I'm not physically strong, but I'm a master of vocabulary, especially when it comes to cutting someone down to size. When I think about it now, it just makes me sad. What is accomplished by verbal warfare, by wounding with words? Nothing... except more hurt, more misunderstanding, more resentment. It grows and feeds on itself.
I'm a lot more careful with my words now days. I try to think before I fire off at someone. John grew up without a lot of name-calling, even in fun, and he's been a good influence on reducing that behavior in my life.
Sometimes we say things to other people only half-jesting, and usually they know it. I had a friend who was quick with sarcastic humor, usually at my expense. The "I was just kidding" defense got old after awhile. He is no longer someone I would consider a really close friend, because I carry too many scars from his brand of humor. Humor should not be hurtful. It wasn't very funny to me! If you care about someone, why would you intentionally say something that might risk hurting or offending them?
Hurtful words happen out in public and in the workplace too, edgy responses that are due to people being tired or under stress. It makes you take a step back when someone snaps at you, doesn't it? And if you hear them saying hurtful things about someone else, don't you wonder what they say about you when you're not around? Probably more of the same. I don't trust people like that, the ones that smile to your face but are quick with cutting words for anyone out of earshot.
Think about it next time before you open your mouth to speak. Are you tired, stressed, angry, frustrated? If so, don't vent on some poor innocent person. Take a deep breath, check your attitude, and then say what you have to say, in a calm and respectful manner. Often it's not what you say, it's how you say it. It's the look, the tone of voice, the cutting edge to your words.
My farm-raised mother used to have a saying that as kids we found quite humorous. If one of us was acting out she'd say "Tie your little bull outside!" We realized as we grew older that it was more about bull byproduct - b.s. - than the animal itself. :-) Yes, don't dump your b.s. on someone else, don't let hurtful words slip out of your mouth, intended or otherwise.
Words are powerful tools... they can tear down or build up, then can enflame a situation or calm it. Practice that age-old adage... "Think before you speak." Use your words to encourage others and to brighten up the world!