"It's just words, get over it." When we are not our best selves, we can say some pretty terrible things to each other. Why do we do this? Lots of reasons...to retaliate, to get someone to back off, to get someone to come close (yeah, we provoke by increasing the intensity, which keeps the engagement going), to win, out of habit. Maybe it's what you grew up with, maybe you regret it, or maybe you believe, oh it's just words, they don't matter.
I'll tell you this, when someone is sitting with me in a therapy session, sharing some overly critical view of self, my next question is: Who said this to you in your life? Words do matter, and they often become the unintended, negative soundtrack that gets played in the recipient's head during a time of self doubt, which we all have on occasion.
We all can lose our cool and make a mistake. Own it, take accountability immediately, and express genuine remorse to right the wrong.
A verbal wound is as bad as a physical one
This is an oldie but goodie, and a reminder for us all to mind our tongues. I really like the metaphor and reference it often:
NAIL IN THE FENCE
There once was a little boy who had a bad temper. His father gave him a bag of nails and told him that every time he lost his temper, he must hammer a nail into the back of the fence. The first day the boy had driven 37 nails in the fence. Over the next few weeks, as he learned to control his anger, the number of nails hammered daily gradually dwindled down. He discovered it was easier to hold his temper than to drive those nails into the fence.
Finally the day came when the boy didn’t lose his temper at all. He told his father about it and the father suggested that the boy now pull out one nail for each day that he was able to hold his temper.
The days passed and the young boy was finally able to tell his father that all the nails were gone. The father took his son by the hand and led him to the fence. He said, “You have done well, my son, but look at the holes in the fence. The fence will never be the same. When you say things in anger, they leave a scar just like this one. You can put a knife in a man and draw it out. It won’t matter how many times you say I’m sorry, the wound is still there. A verbal wound is as bad as a physical one. Friends are very rare jewels, indeed. They make you smile and encourage you to succeed. They lend an ear, they share words of praise and they always want to open their hearts to us.”
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About the author: Melissa Hudson, PhD(c) is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Plano, Texas specializing in couples counseling, anxiety disorders, and depression. She also works with adults and families on a variety of concerns. Have questions? Reach out! firstname.lastname@example.org | 214-235-8175 | www.counselingsolutionstexas.com