Written or spoken, words are continuously pressing us on through life. They lift us up, drag us down, wound us deeply or heal our hearts. Words have the power to break confidences, build life-long partnership, or start wars.
Words can make or break us, both as individuals and as a society. “Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words will never hurt you.” Then why did I hurt so badly after being told hurtful things? I thought. Most of us were probably taught that little chant when we were fairly young. Words can’t hurt. Ignore them. Let them slide off your back.
The man I married abused me emotionally, mentally, and physically. For 12 years I would hear that I was a horrible person, I couldn’t do anything right, I was a miserable failure as a wife, I was stupid. There were name-calling words that I can’t even repeat. Those words he screamed at me squelched my spirit. It felt like shooting arrows piercing my heart, leaving me anguished and in despair. Self-esteem, self-worth, self-confidence, and self-love were all eaten away like a slow growing cancer. Why doesn’t he just beat me? At least the physical pain would eventually heal.
And that’s the difference between the damage caused by physical abuse, which leaves visible marks, and verbal abuse, which marks the victim on the inside. Unlike the marks of physical abuse which will heal, the damage from verbal abuse can compound to cause serious emotional damage to its victim. Anger, depression, and low self-esteem can be products of verbal abuse. And they can last a lifetime.
These steps helped me heal from the emotional trauma:
• Examine your feelings. I struggled doing this exercise, as it was very difficult for me recalling the memories. But I had to ask myself, “Why you are so deeply affected by the words being said about you and what you can do to possibly change that feeling?”
• Forgive, then forget. This released me and gave me true freedom. This is a very powerful step, that when followed, caused a dramatic change in my life. By holding on to the hurtful words, I still made myself a slave to the painful memory. I let it go by forgiving my husband and then forgetting the painful episode all together. It is important to understand the purpose. Going through those painful moments in life made me a stronger person. I had to stop feeling like a victim and use it reach my ultimate goal in life.
• Write a letter. I was encouraged to write down what I felt and how I could be liberated from my emotional prison. I even wrote a letter to my former husband who had wronged me with his words and actions. I told him I forgave him for what he did to me. I gave it to him, but you don’t have to. You can pour out all your feelings on paper, and after you are done, burn it. You will be surprised how doing this can remove a major burden in you.
• Stay committed to heal. Once I decided to forgive, there were moments when the feelings of anger and resentment tried to creep into my mind again. I constantly had to deal with that. Instead, I reminded myself that I was already free from them. Eventually, they died. I became a renewed and much stronger person; no longer hurting and bitter.
• Pray for healing. God is the greatest Healer of all and there is nothing too great that He cannot give you. When your struggle seems overwhelming, humble yourself before God and ask for His grace to give you the emotional freedom you desire. He will give it to you according to your faith.