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Words can give hope or cut deeper than knives

Posted on June 22, 2022

OpinionColumns

Tony Verdini

Tony Verdini

There is an attitude both young children and older adults nearing the end of their life often adopt. It’s one of indifference to what they say.

Children, not fully understanding the hurtful nature words can have, are brutally honest with their observations. Their remarks can be cutting, yet revealing. They are not equipped to understand that the moment when people are being criticized is when the hurt registers. Children automatically get a pass because their emotional and developmental skills are not yet on par with their ability to understand that “all words have consequences.”

Rationally thinking adults have to be accountable for everything they say.

Ephesians 4:31: “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior.”

Recently, my heart sank when a friend told me his wife of 57 years asked him point blank, “Why don’t you just die?” The irony of this is that he’s taken care of her physically since she experienced a debilitating medical event more than five years ago.

I know this couple. They have no children and have relied on each other for more than five decades. Out of my friend’s generosity, they took in an adult relative to live in their home. This act of kindness has transformed this household from a peaceful coexistence to a toxic living environment. 

I was shocked at the cruel nature of this comment, especially because I have to fight every moment to live and know how precious life is. At least I have a support network through my family and friends, which keeps me fighting. I have experienced pain and defeat at times, but always muster the strength through my support group to battle on another day. 

Looking in my friend’s eyes, witnessing the shallowness of his appearance and listening to how his heart was crying over this betrayal — “Why don’t you just die?” — I can tell it has caused more emotional angst in him than any pain I could suffer or even imagine.

One person has the power to do this. The other will suffer the emotional consequences.

Are you the type of person who truly wants to comfort and help others, or is there a mean streak lurking within you?

People use words as weapons. For reasons unknown to me, some people take a perverse joy in bringing others down. There is a perceived sense of conquering when one puts oneself above others. This is a harmful way to live life.

Since most people do not use physical confrontations to attack you, words become their weapon of choice. Like a knife, words can slash through even the most callous of us. Words will cut deep into your soul and wound even the hardest of hearts. They inflict more damage because they penetrate every part of your being.

Words change the way you feel, the way you think and the way you treat others. Words will either illuminate your day or bring darkness to your self-esteem.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave us this revelation: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

The Bible encourages us to love one another, to forgive others, minimize their wrongdoings and harbor no bitterness or anger in our hearts toward others.

Ephesians 4:29: “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”

Proverbs 18:21: “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.”

I have been fortunate to be able to count on a great support network, incredible friends and a family that just is the best when it comes to helping me. Then there is my friend who, after almost 60 years of companionship, had his trust and faith shattered by five misplaced and evil words: “Why don’t you just die?”

While my circumstances are pretty definitive, I still have hope. You see, hope comes through others’ encouragement and love to support you, not by scathing and emotionally crippling remarks that are meant to hurt you.

Words are powerful. Chose yours carefully.

Tony Verdini is president of Old Saratoga Inc. and a cancer patient.

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