By Kathy Koches
One of the nicest compliments I’ve ever received was from an author, whom I respect. He called me a “wordsmith.” I much prefer this to being called a “grammar Nazi!”
I remember my grandmother telling me the old adage “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” Sound advice, but unfortunately not followed by most people. In fact, in today’s society, bullying and public humiliation have become rampant.
Even the most loving family can be guilty of “hurtful words.” When I was a child I suffered from allergies, mostly to flowers, perfumes and scents. Back in the 50’s people didn’t understand allergies or even recognize them as the cause of many problems.
I sniffed and sneezed every spring and summer, and was constantly rubbing my nose to try and alleviate the itching. I well remember my father saying, “Stop rubbing your nose; it is making it red and soon you will look like Bozo the Clown!” I wanted to stop; indeed I tried to stop, but of course I couldn’t do it. And so my suffering was made ten times worse by the humiliation and fear engendered by those “hurtful words” which I believed.
There is a little poem that comes to mind on this subject. It goes like this:
Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can also hurt me.
Sticks and stones break only skin, while words are ghosts that haunt me.
Pain from words has left its scar, on mind and heart that’s tender.
Cuts and bruises now have healed, its words that I remember.
Nikki Sex says: “Strange how mean words can return to ones thoughts, years after they’ve been callously thrown at you. They replay in your mind, spiking a sense of remembered pain. Nasty name calling can be an ugly memory that stabs unexpectedly—not unlike a nightmare where you wake up crying. Sticks and stones, may break your bones—yet, cruel names can hurt you.”
Now I know my parents loved me, and did not mean to inflict pain by their hurtful words, but all these many years later, I still remember them. Words once spoken cannot be taken back, or unheard.
Sometimes even the most well-meaning words can inflict pain and hurt on another person. I believe it is important to think carefully before you speak, or as my dad used to say, “Put your brain in gear before you put your mouth in operation.”
To quote Jason Versey: “’Sticks and stones will break my bones but names will never hurt me.”’ This is a lie. What we say matters. The unkind things we communicate can spoil the best of relationships; even with the deepest of regrets…what lingers is a stain of hurt that may fade but will never truly go away. The wounding words we say are like feathers released in a harsh wind, once said; we will never get them back.”
With today’s political climate the “hurtful words” are a daily occurrence. We are bombarded with name calling, racist and bigoted remarks, and words that incite anger, fear and unrest every time we come in contact with the media, be it television, newspapers or online social media. I have had to make it very clear to my social media friends that I will not discuss politics on line, nor will I put up with any “bashing” no matter whom the target is of these “hurtful words.” I do have some friends who hold views that are 180 degree opposite of mine, but so long as we “agree to disagree” we can remain friends. I have actually lost a few friends along the way, but perhaps I am better off without them; at least I no longer have to subject myself to their “hurtful words.”
I was always taught that it was okay to express your feelings, but that one should “fight fair” in any verbal battle. I have lived with the love of my life, my husband Bob, for over 31 years now, and we have a hard and fast rule. We never say hurtful words to each other, never resort to verbal abuse in any disagreement, and always respect each other, even when we disagree. Is this the secret to our happiness and success? Perhaps. It certainly is a factor in the harmonious relationship we have.
A very good rule to remember is this: “Don’t say something permanently hurtful because you are temporarily upset.” It is amazing how words can do that, just shred your insides apart. Be sure to taste your words before you spit them out.
“We navigate our whole lives using words. Change the words and I believe we can change and improve life. Be careful with words, because once they are said, they can only be forgiven, not forgotten.”