The whole “sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me” thing is the biggest load of dung ever propagated in the form of advice for self-protection. In fact, sometimes I think the sticks and stones would do less damage because their impact would be clearer, and obvious to everyone. If you beat me with a stick, even I would know that you were bad for me. And everyone around would stand up and protect me from you. But words? They are sly little buggers. Whispered, muttered, twisted sarcastically, withheld, gossiped with others, and confused within messages that seem nice.
In marriage, words can really hurt. In any relationship really. Between people in general. Words have the power to seriously harm. All this talk about bullying had me really thinking about something – we are very ready to take up the cause of strangers who have been mistreated and subjected to humiliation or intimidation, made to feel insecure and rejected. But what about at home? What about with the person we are supposed to love the most? What about the one to whom we have committed ourselves as a partner? How do we use our words there?
Do you whisper harsh criticisms about your partner to your children, or to other family members? Or mutter them to yourself in a passive-aggressive way? Do you angrily throw them, justified because you are right, while you are engaged in conflict or “having a fight?” Do you gossip about your partner’s failings rather than discussing them directly? Do you say nice things when your underlying message is one of hostility and anger, barely suppressed rage? Perhaps most important of all, do you withhold words that build up, that encourage, that appreciate, that acknowledge, that pay respect, that are polite?
Because you see, words heal. They are powerful things, and we have the privilege of controlling how we use them. Here is a case in point:
“…- my better half, my best friend. She possesses a depth of compassion and caring that, at times, leave me in awe. ”
This is a message from my husband, publicly stated, on Twitter. This from a man that has received all of about…nothing…from me this past week. I’ve not been feeling well, work has been busy, our son was ill, my mom was needing medical attention, and I had a funeral tribute to write and offer. I was tired, sad, and not emotionally available to him very much at all. But these words? They filled me with strength, they imbued me with his love and support, they grounded me. Words heal.
Perhaps part of the solution to the bullying problem is to look closer to home. Do you say please and thank you, good morning, hello, excuse me, and you’re welcome to the people that you live with every day? Do you look at them when you’re talking together? Are you really listening? And do you say it? “I. Like. You.” “You. Belong. Here.” Do you keep each other safe emotionally?
Check in. Don’t assume. Speak it into being. Words heal.
What have your words done today right in your home?