I want to know who said, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me?” Because I call shenanigans on that. Shenanigans.
As a survivor of horrific abuse, I can tell you with 100% certainty, words do indeed hurt.
I woke up this morning in a great mood. It’s Saturday. The sun is shining. Little birds lifted my covers and I sang myself out of bed. I was ready for a great day. I came downstairs and poured myself a big cup of steaming hot coffee, and sat across from my three children, who were already planning their awesome Saturday adventures.
And then, like, instantly, it all changed. The kids started fighting over a ladybug they’d found on the kitchen table. “We should set it free!” said little. “No, it will die in the cold.” said middle, “Let’s keep it in a cup as a pet!”
Now, while I appreciate both their efforts in wanting to save the ladybug, it seemed the conversation was becoming loud, personal and mean. And it wasn’t from either child. It was my oldest.
Sitting there, chomping on chocolate chip pancakes, he didn’t side with either of his siblings, but instead, decided they were both “morons” who couldn’t figure out what to do with this little ladybug.
“Real smart.” he said to little, watching her try and pick up the ladybug ever-so-carefully, with a pencil. And seconds later, “Oh yah, great idea to put it in a cup…so it will die…” he said towards middle.
Like, really? You’re eating chocolate chip pancakes. How can you be in such a bad mood this early in the morning? And why do you even care what they do with the little ladybug? Seriously. Eat your pancakes and mind your own business.
And as little picked up the ladybug with the pencil and transported it to the back door, getting ready to set it free, she dropped it. “Wow, great job!” he said, dripping with sarcasm.
I had been listening to the conversation, hoping they would sort it out. Hoping they would work together to find a solution for this Saturday morning dilemma. Hoping.
I saw the look on my daughter’s face. Defeated. And my oldest just continued along eating his breakfast, not even realizing…or perhaps even caring…that he’d just broken his sister’s spirit. Effortlessly. Easily.
Inside, I raged. Suddenly, I was brought back to those horrible times when I was on the other end of that verbal bashing. Being called a ‘moron’ – being told I was worthless, stupid…and tears started forming, then flowing from my eyes. I couldn’t stop them.
I looked at my oldest and shook my head, like “how could you?” I work so hard to teach my children to respect one another. I teach them how words can hurt. I’ve taken a piece of white paper, crumpled it up and then straightened it out, explaining that once a word has been said, it can never be unheard.
Like that piece of paper, it can be straightened back out, but the creases are still there. Those are the words, and the paper is the child. They are still the same, but they’ve been changed somehow. Words can do that. They have an impact. They can make or break someone’s spirit.
Maybe I’m reading too much into this. Maybe I’m too sensitive to verbal abuse because I heard it every day for three years. I was beaten, battered, abused. I was demoralized. I was at the brink of suicide because he’d convinced me I wasn’t worth living. I was isolated from friends and family and felt very much alone. And even though it’s been over for thirty…wow…thirty years, when I hear a certain word or phrase, it brings it all back, and it hurts.
Even now, living this amazingly blessed life – it stings.
I walked out of the room. The kitchen was quiet. It was over.
Within minutes, they were all laughing and talking again, like it never happened. My little had forgiven him. Unconditional love. A pure heart. Living her life as Jesus has taught us: to forgive, to love.
I had been so caught up in what he’d done, that I didn’t realize the lesson she was teaching him. Without words, but a simple hug, she’d taught him forgiveness.
And the ladybug? My oldest scooped it up, and with the help of his little sister, set it free.