Often our words can slice through someone very deeply. We can hurt and humiliate with a couple of sentences. We can spoil someone’s special moment by drawing attention to ourselves when the focus should be on them. We can deliberately stir things up, ignite tension or start a storm. It is remarkable how cruel we can be – even to the people we love most. We can bring them down a peg or put them into their box with our acid tongue. We humans are born with the capacity for love but we also have the potential to instil emotions within ourselves and others than have nothing to do with love. We can cause so much unnecessary harm even in the things we say.
Sometimes it is the lack of words that hurts most. Or the failure to seek appropriate words to calm or soothe a situation. Maybe, we refuse to praise the new coat because we resent that it looks so well. Or fail to sympathise with someone because we are tired of them talking about their trials and tribulations. We think that we have enough of our own problems without listening to someone else’s. Sometimes our deliberate silence can inflict the deepest wound – remaining quiet as someone is back-stabbed or by failing to correct the facts in a gossip session at work.
Our hurtful words can be an act of retaliation. We can decide to give as good as we get. To dish out cruelty to those who are being cruel to us. It ialmost seems like a natural reaction to retaliate and punish others who cause us hurt. Our very being seems to achieve a degree of satisfaction with such thoughts and deeds.
Ever since the beginning of time we humans have had the capacity to do evil and good. We can protect but also destroy. We can love and hate. History shows that we can make war and peace. We can seek vengeance and promote reconciliation. Maybe, we have evolved as a species not only to be sensitive to threat but to keep it at bay through hitting back. However, such contentment is only short-lived. Hurting others is not good for them or us.
Research tells us that vengeful thoughts and actions have a tendency to create physiological and emotional distress within our bodies. Indeed, when we look more deeply at it, we realise that we do not feel any better by enacting revenge or wishing ill on others. A cascade of negative reactions takes place within our bodies when we strike out with a vocabulary of hurt.
The good news is that we humans never lose the capacity for love. Love can be expressed through words and deeds. Seeking forgiveness is always the correct thing to do when we know that our words have caused pain. This is an act of love. Our inner-biology reacts very positively when we seek to make peace. Revolutionary positive chemical change takes place in our bodies as soon as we contemplate the option of reaching out and seeking forgiveness.
Often we need to wait for the correct opportunity. If we have caused someone to be emotionally distressed we need to acknowledge the reality that the last thing they may want to hear is our apology. They cannot even hear us properly because they are so hurt. But calmness always follows a storm and it is in these moments that we should let love shine and say we are sorry. Sometimes words alone are too easily uttered. We should seek ways to put the situation right by asking if there is anything we can do to make things better? Any gesture? Any action?
Love is never wrong, even if our plea for forgiveness is thrown right back at us. Love needs to be patient and kind. It protects, trusts, hopes and will persevere. Hurtful words do not need to linger because love always conquers in the end.
(c) Shane Martin