There’s an old children’s saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” If only that were true, but it’s a fable that needs to be laid to rest. Words can hurt a lot more than sticks and stones. They may not break bones, but they can surely break hearts. Words can devastate. Words can wound; words can kill. Words can ruin reputations and destroy relationships. There’s just no doubt about it-words hurt.
Judging, cruel, venomous, and hateful words are verbal abuse at its worst. They leave long lasting emotional cuts and bruises. When someone hurts us, we play the tape over and over. No matter how many times we try to dismiss the hurtful tirade, sometimes those words are with us forever. There may be words from your childhood that you still can’t escape. Stupid. Fatso. Ugly. Lazy. Crybaby. Dummy. Loser. Moron. Sissy. Chicken. And on and on. It starts with one word when we’re young, but as we grow, the hurtful sentiments become phrases and even paragraphs. If we don’t find a way to heal, they can cause lasting, permanent damage.
Some people are so angry and bitter that they are ready to strike out at everyone. Their words are a reflection of their souls. The tongue only speaks what comes from the heart. Often they are angry, bitter, resentful people who want everyone to be as miserable as they are. They need healing and deliverance. And they need to understand that so called “honesty” is never an excuse for rudeness or cruelty.
I have felt my heart physically ache from the pain of hurtful words. I have cried myself to sleep when words have wounded me deeply. A broken spirit is much harder to heal than a broken bone.
Even strong people will often collapse under the continual verbal attack of someone who really wants to wound them. Proverbs 11: 9 says, “The hypocrite with his mouth destroys a neighbor.” Proverbs 12:18 reminds us, “Reckless words pierce like a sword…” Put-downs are designed to gain control over someone else. (Hence, a lot of the “bullying” that children face in school and elsewhere.) When the person is confronted for their inappropriate actions, and not allowed to be in control, they get even nastier.
If someone continues to treat us with cruelty and disrespect, it is time to consider distancing ourselves from them. They are detrimental to our self-esteem, and quite frankly, we just don’t need those kind of people in our lives. It’s important to have boundaries, and to know your limits as to what you will allow.
Those closest to us have an extra advantage when it comes to wounding, because they know our vulnerabilities, and we care what they think of us. A few well chosen words can annihilate. When they use intimate knowledge of our weaknesses, it is the worst kind of betrayal.
Words are responsible for wars, and the end of friendships. Even the tone of the words can determine the meaning.
It may be one remark, thoughtlessly tossed our way, but it impacts our future happiness, because we just can’t get it out of our head. It becomes an inner dialogue with no “off” button.
Verbal abuse is more than an occasional raised voice. It can include intimidation, making fun of someone, threats, embarrassment, or an attempt to control, manipulate, or demean another. When these things occur, it is not okay; it is verbal abuse. Verbal abusers will try to put the blame on you, and make you feel like you did something to deserve their cruelty, when, in fact, you did not. They need to take responsibility for their actions. No one has a right to verbally abuse you because you don’t agree with them. They intentionally use the words they do, because they know they cause pain.
I have been hurt, not only by words that were said, but also by words that weren’t said. When we see an injustice, we have a responsibility to stand up for what is right. So your silence can bring great sorrow as well.
Remember, words can be weapons. Words can destroy. The scars they leave can be more painful than a physical assault…
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