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“The sharpest sword is a word spoken in wrath.” (The Buddha).
A little boy, prone to anger, was told by his father, “Every time you’re angry, drive a nail in that wooden fence. When you’ve learned to control your anger, start removing them.” Six months later, the boy had removed every nail he had driven. Triumphant, he showed the fence to his father. The father sadly pointed out, “See the holes? The fence will never be the same.”
I first heard this story several years ago and thought it a perfect analogy to the potential damage anger can have on another person.
All emotions have purpose and value. None are inherently bad, even anger. It’s how we choose to express them and what we do with them that determines if they become a positive or negative force.
Here’s the problem with anger: we become upset with someone for whatever reason and lash out in fury. “You idiot! I told you not to do that!” “I never should have married you! My parents warned me!” Ouch! Hurtful words hurt…over and over. We may say something once yet the person on the receiving end of our rage replays those words again and again, each time gaining momentum and power. For the offender, the incidence occurs once and is forgotten. For the target, they relive it ten, twenty, one hundred times. Angry words have the potential to cause a lifetime of suffering.
When I was young, I distinctly remember an adult telling me in a nasty way I’d never amount to anything in life. Clearly they were angry although I never understood why. I hadn’t done anything to warrant it at that time. (I had plenty of other times though.) Those words stayed with me for decades. I attended college (with no aspirations) simply because my mother insisted. (Thank you, mom.) Eleven days after graduation I married my high school sweetheart and soon thereafter started a family. Staying home raising children was safe and at times became a convenient excuse for not venturing outside of the home. After all, what else could I possibly do? I reminded myself I’d never amount to anything so why even try?
It wasn’t until I was in my forties that I was able to revisit those hurtful words and re evaluate their meaning. What had caused me great anguish for nearly thirty years, in reality, had no value. That adult’s words were not truth. They were spoken in anger. Now as an adult, I was finally able to put the past behind me by forgiving the one who so cruelly drove a nail into my spirit.
Hurtful words hurt – over and over. They can leave holes in the very fiber of one’s being. Choose your words wisely. Choose kindness.