If only we knew how our words affect others. But we can’t see inside the person with our eyes; we only see the outside. We often do and say careless things that we may forget in a second, but those who received the brunt of those words or actions may feel them for a long time.
I wish I never heard anyone say to a grieving pet owner who has had to put their beloved companion down, “oh, c’mon. It’s just a cat/dog/gerbil/bird/hamster/etc. Just go buy another one!” Anyone struggling with life-long trauma (PTSD, buried emotions, childhood abuse, etc.) knows that there is no time limit for what they feel. No one but them understands how there are days when they can’t even get out of bed, much less function in the world. Bullying these folks with a crisply spoken “get over it, already!” does no good and a great deal of harm. It makes them feel more isolated than ever.
Our technology today is a great place to hurt and bully people, and the victims will never know the bullies’ names. It’s an easy crime and causes a great deal of pain to the victim. I read where a teen was literally bullied to death by other teens in her school via social media. They taunted her with words like ‘you are a loser,’ and ‘why don’t you just do us all a favor and kill yourself,’ and ‘you are worthless’ to the point where she took her own life. Worst of all, one of the bullies on hearing of her death, posted this comment: “so she’s dead, so what. I don’t care.”
I cannot wrap my mind around such thinking, and wonder if that poor sad child would still be living had just one person sent her words of kindness and encouragement.
While hurtful words don’t always cause death, they do cause pain, and in my book, that’s an act of terrorism. As the object of terrorism is literally to terrorize, this is an act of war on someone’s heart. I wonder what kind of personal pain can cause someone to inflict such acts on another.
Too many times, we judge without bothering to know the truth. I once worked with Jen, a tall redhead who was beautiful, feisty and frank, and was also gradually succumbing to an irreversible disease, *ankylosing spondylitis (AS). Basically, the bones begin to fuse together due to calcium forming in the ligaments and joints. When I knew her, she was still able to drive her sporty little red convertible, which had a handicap plate.
One day as she parked her car at a mall in a handicapped space, two women commented loudly about how “some people will do anything to get a good parking spot, even fake an injury. She doesn’t look like she’s handicapped!” Jen walked over to the women and gave them a brief rundown of her disease, including how it took her and her husband an hour and a half each morning to break up the calcium deposits in her body so that she could move.
By the time she was finished, both women were in tears and telling her how sorry they were. I’m sure that they never made such a snap judgement again.
However, the smallest gesture, the briefest kind word, or a quick smile can do worlds of good. If we can put aside judgement and assumptions, perhaps it will help us choose better words. We can’t know what is really going on inside a person, but we can choose to lift someone up instead of putting them down, compliment instead of denigrate, help instead of hurt, and offer a word of encouragement now and then.
It costs us nothing to be kind but a moment, but that moment may last a lifetime to someone else.
*Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS) is a type of progressive arthritis that leads to chronic inflammation of the spine and sacroiliac joints. It can also affect other joints and organs in the body, such as the eyes, lungs, kidneys, shoulders, knees, hips, heart, and ankles. However, AS primarily affects the axial skeleton, including the ligaments and joints.
This disease causes stiffness, aching, and pain around the spine and pelvis. The disease can eventually lead to a total fusion of the spine. This occurs when the vertebrae (spinal bones) actually grow together fusing the spine due to calcification of the ligaments and discs between each vertebrae. If the vertebrae fuse together, the spine is robbed of mobility, leaving the vertebrae brittle and vulnerable to fractures.
University of Maryland Medical Center.