You know the old saying, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me”? Such a lie. Words can hurt. Deeply. Broken bones heal, but the pain from another person’s hurtful words can last even decades after they are uttered.
Sometimes people (even unintentionally) say such mean things that I can’t help but obsess about it. At times I am too shocked to reply. And there are even times when the shock is quickly replaced by anger. I have to admit there are moments when the person who, for one reason or another, let the stupidity out of his or her mouth would receive quite an earful if not for sensitive ears in the room.
Honestly, though, that shock I mentioned usually gets me to a state that prohibits recourse of any kind.
But no matter a person’s intention, there is no excuse for saying awful things both to and about others. Most especially when one takes into consideration how that person feels about what was said to them.
For example, I have put on a lot of weight. A lot. I know this. I see it. I’m darn near 200 pounds now, and I used to be a svelte 125 for years. I carry my extra weight with me everywhere. I have to keep buying bigger and bigger clothes to fit my body because I just can’t seem to stop gaining.
While no one has called me fat outright, I have a feeling things are being said or will be at some point. It brings up the memory of a conversation I found both insightful and disturbing.
Many years ago, I stood outside talking with a few friends. I can’t remember if we were going somewhere or had just gotten back. What I do remember is that we’d started on the topic of a mutual friend. Then they moved on to this friend’s girlfriend. To my surprise, these two pals of mine turned the topic into how big (i.e. fat) this girlfriend was.
Now, she didn’t look fat to me. She was curvy for sure, but I didn’t see it as a downside. I mean, I didn’t know her very well but this had no bearing on what I thought of her size.
“But she’s gained, like, 50 pounds!” they told me after I replied how un-fat she was. “She used to be your size. Now look at her!”
I didn’t know if this was true or not. Like I said, I didn’t know her that well. But who were they to determine at what point she was or wasn’t fat? Who were they to say that some weight gain was okay but only to a point and no more?
I was angry, for her and for all people.
Now that I have gained between 70 and 80 pounds since we first met, are they thinking these things about me? Is anyone else?
There are also the obsessive thoughts about awful things I have said in regards to others. I so wish I could go back and literally bite my tongue if need be to keep myself from commenting on the weight or appearance (or personality or intelligence or so on) of other people.
Have my words stung someone as much as another person’s words have stung me?
Gosh, I hope not.
I’m sure there is no way for me to make full amends to every single person I have ever hurt. But for what it’s worth, I am truly sorry. I cannot force anyone to forgive me, but I can hope they will. I understand that it isn’t always easy.
As for me forgiving others, I want to. I’m working on it. And I am also working on changing those sometimes automatic judgmental thoughts into softer, kinder reminders that they are people and have struggles I may know nothing about.
(I have even gotten to a place where I am no longer holding a grudge against certain people with whom I had an explosive fallout last spring. Even I am surprised at this! But I realized over this passed holiday season that I don’t hate them like I thought I did. I might not ever really like them again, but we are not enemies. We have much more in common than not. It was finally time for me to let go of my anger. Forgiveness might even come this year.)