Sticks and Stones: When Words Hurt

By Jenny Harrison

All people cross the line from childhood to adulthood with a secondhand opinion of who they are.
~~ Heyward Ewart, AM I BAD? Recovering From Abuse

20141022_01It was a typical outing to the grocery store as I scanned the shelves in search of the weekly advertised specials. The day was uneventful until I witnessed the commotion at the end of the aisle. I cringed as the scenario unfolded and each insult was uttered.

An exhausted child was crying as her mother screamed and threatened the young girl. “You better shut up and shut up now. You’re  only problem is that you are a spoiled rotten, selfish, brat! If only you were more like your younger sister. She is the good one. She never acts this way. You, on the other hand, act like your loser father. I am embarrassed to take you anywhere.”

Crestfallen, the weary child physically wilted. It was impossible to conceal the feeling of humiliation and shame. I doubt the mother realized the extent of the damage she heaped upon her child or could  fathom how often her daughter would mentally repeat those harsh words for years to come. Did she know that her remarks born of anger and hostility had the power to shape a fragile self-esteem and identity? Did she realize it was possible to change undesirable behavior without condemning her child?

Definition of Emotional Abuse:

“Any act including confinement, isolation, verbal assault, humiliation, intimidation, infantilization, or any other treatment which may diminish the sense of identity, dignity, and self-worth.”

Examples of Emotional Abuse:

Yelling or swearing
Name calling or insults; mocking
Threats and intimidation
Ignoring or excluding
Denial of the abuse and blaming of the victim

20141022_02The grocery store incident reminded me of the statements made by the crushed and injured souls in my group therapy sessions: “I can’t really call it abuse—I mean others have had it worse than me. My parents and husband(s) never hit me.”

The truth is that hurtful words tend to replay in a person’s mind years after physical wounds have healed.

Are you are a victim of emotional abuse? There is hope. You don’t have to live in perpetual pain and anguish.

Perhaps as you read these words you recognize your role as a victim and are continuing the generational cycle of abuse due to your own unhealed trauma. This may explain your actions, but it is NEVER a good excuse.

The Bible offers scripture that directly addresses the power of an unruly tongue:

The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit.  Proverbs 15:4 (NIV)

Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.”   Matthew 15:10-11 (NIV)

The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.   Proverbs 18:21 (NIV)

20141022_03Today, I challenge victims and those who victimize to break the cycle of pain and destruction. No more blaming, justifications, excuses, or rationalizations.

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but hurtful and abusive words scar the soul.

About Jenny

Jenny Harrison is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Licensed Speech Pathologist. She is the owner and operator of the Heart of Texas Speech and Counseling Center in Gustine, Texas.

Emotional Abuse Resources:

Words Are Not For Hurting (English/Spanish Version)
Author – Elizabeth Verdick

Healing the Scars of Emotional Abuse
AuthorGregory L. Jantz, PHD

Copyright © 2014, Jenny Harrison, all rights reserved, Breath of Life Women’s Ministries. Quote by Heyward Ewart. Images from Pinterest. Scripture from The Holy Bible, New International Version.

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