The greatest lie told to children — at least when I was a child — was this:
Sticks and stones may break your bones, but names can never hurt you.
Words are a powerful weapon. They don’t just hurt us in the moment; they also get inside us. They echo in the empty chambers of our minds.
Is it any wonder we like to stay busy? The more we read, the more we do, the more we cram into our brains, the more we can crowd out the hurtful words that linger in the corners.
Or so we think. They are always there.
What you say matters. What people say to you matters.
Words hurt. They create real, if invisible, injury. Words puncture the heart. They leave scars.
Prevailing advice is to toughen up. When we feel under attack we self-protect by building a wall around the heart.
We get angry. Anger hardens the heart. It’s an emotion designed to keep us safe from the words that would pierce our hearts. This is how we toughen up.
Anger makes us feel like we are in control. It gives us the sense of significance we lost when we were attacked.
But it’s an illusion. Because in anger we just perpetuate the violence.
The walls that protect you imprison you. — Tony Robbins
When we harden our hearts and protect it with a wall, we close off to trust. We don’t love. Trust and love require an open heart.
Meditation teacher Tara Brach teaches that forgiveness is letting go of anger.
When we forgive, we shed the armoring around our hearts.
The Buddhists teach that this is the step before meta, openness to love.
I found this interesting. The prevailing teaching I have seen is that forgiveness comes from love.
This is saying the opposite: we need to forgive in order to open to love.
Forgiveness comes first.
By no means is this easy. When someone is attacking you or someone you love, your reputation, your integrity, your intentions, your instinct is to fight back.
We want revenge.
The hardest thing to do is to step back and do nothing. No response. No acknowledgment. No words.
Letting it go feels weak.
But when we let it go we discover that this is the source of true control and significance.
Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words hurt more deeply.
Those wounds heal only through forgiveness.