Words can kill my soulPublished 1:30pm Thursday, June 20, 2013
By Rev. Bob Henderson
It is said that “sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”
Most of us know that words and words alone can hurt us, and hurt us terribly. Most of know and remember the exact words that have hurt us. A physiologist once ran a study and concluded that it takes 99 positive statements to heal the pain and hurt from one negative statement.
He may be right, but my experience is exactly the opposite.
It is true that one careless or hurtful word can “burst a bubble” or destroy a mood or feeling or even change the course of someone’s life. By the same token, one kind word, one smile, one note of encouragement or thanks can change the entire complexion of my life. I can live a long time on one positive stroke: it will sustain me through a long, dry spell of adversity and negativism.
That’s why I have a “fuzzies” file – short for “warm-fuzzies”: modern slang that means words of praise or love which make us feel warm and good inside.
In it, I keep cards, letters and other reminders from people, expressing their love, care and thanks for something I’ve done. Reading them when I feel worthless calls into the present both the past incident, the reaction of those present, and sometimes even the feeling of pleasure and self-worth that resulted from whatever it was that I did for them.
I use my “fuzzies” file sparingly and occasionally. And, I never fail to be surprised when I do. I never fail to say to myself, “How could he/she/they feel that way when I’m really so bad/useless/worthless?” In that surprise, through the acknowledgment of my worth coming from another person, I can begin to heal whatever current “word” wounds I may be dealing with.
Few of us are secure or confident enough inside to be always at peace with who we are. All of us have “down” times, all of us feel worthless or useless now and again. A harsh, negative, hurtful word can make it much worse.
Dealing with self-worth, feelings of uselessness, guilt from self-judgments labeling ourselves as “bad,” is difficult. It is a spiritual battle. Some of us fight this spiritual battle on a daily basis. Some hide from it, run from it or ignore it. Usually all it takes is one harsh, negative, hurtful word to plunge us back into the self-worth battle.
God loves us all, every one of us. God wants us to love ourselves and all we are, even our imperfections. Acknowledging that love, making it a part of who we are is difficult. But, “Learning to love ourselves for God’s sake is the highest form of love,” says Bernard of Clairvaux.
While that’s difficult to do alone, it’s amazing how much a single, kind, loving word from another person helps. Let’s all pray for and try to be “fuzzies” for one another, remembering to reach out and express our love and care for others. It’s not only good for the people around us, it’s good for us, too.
Dear Lord, help us not only to love ourselves as you called us to do, but help us offer our love to all your children we meet that they may learn to love themselves. Amen.
The Rev. Bob Henderson is rector of Trinity Episcopal Church in Wetumpka.