When I think back on my growing up years I have mostly benign or happy thoughts about that time. I didn’t lead a totally sheltered life, there were traumas, but for the most part my early years were normal, even though, thanks to Erma Bombeck, I understand ‘normal’ to just be a cycle on my dryer.
I can vividly recall the move from Germany back to the States; I was heartbroken to leave ‘Home’ and cried for quite some time. I remember the event, not the heart ache I felt. Then there was the time I left half my face on the road when my pant leg got caught in my bike chain. I can remember looking down and seeing my pant leg mangled between the chain and sprocket and then my mind seems to go forward in time to me looking at myself in the mirror and seeing half my face covered by a huge scab. I don’t recall the fear or pain of the event.
The events that I do seem to recall complete with emotional turmoil or horror are the events that, according to the common phrase of my youth, should be the ones that had little to no effect on me. That phrase was taught in school and supported by my parents as, I believe, it had been an instruction that they had been raised with. You may remember hearing it yourself, it goes something like this, “Sticks and Stone may break my bones, but words (or names) can never hurt me.”
As I’ve aged, and matured, but remember, my maturity level really depends on who you talk to or what not-thought-out-thing I’ve just done. But, anyway, I’ve learned the simplistic falsehood of that saying. Words have more power and the negative effect they have on a person can hurt deeper and last longer than most physical pain.
I can recall my Mom telling me, more often than I care to remember, to watch my tongue. I guess being small for my age and wearing glasses at the age of five wielding a verbal whip was something I did to afford myself protection away from home. Like any other skill it took practice and unfortunately using my verbal whip was something I practiced on anyone who offended me. But, I wasn’t the only one in my family who possessed that skill. I recall several times being somewhat jealous of my sister who seemed to always come up with the really good comments. I knew if I kept practicing I could get better.
Well, with several years behind me now, and more victims than I care to remember, I have come to the realization that there is a tool that I posses and this tool is a very dangerous and valuable tool. I should be so very grateful to posses such a tool and to use it ever so wisely. The tool I refer to is the ability to think and speak, which should always proceed in that order but that’s not always a given.
My deepest pains that have had the longest lasting and farthest reaching effects have been the ones that have been caused by someone else’s words. There is little one can do to prevent another person from saying horrible things, just short of some type of physical violence that will prevent words from escaping another’s mouth. Then they could always write it out and because of human innate curiosity most likely we’re read it. But, a person has sole control over what comes out of one’s mouth.
I remember suffering with self-control growing up and am only now realizing my potential where that skill is concerned. Just because I think it DOES NOT mean it has to come out of my mouth. Some things are so much better off left unsaid, and then it’s easier to work on not thinking in that direction for future situations.
So, as I continue interacting with others I will continue to work on honoring and being respectful of my gift of speech. But know that if I give you the stink eye it’s because I’m holding back on lashing out with my verbal whip.