How Words Hurt

Chosen and delivered carefully, words can be as painful (or even moreso) as “sticks and stones.”  There are a number of factors contributing to the degree and depth of the hurt.  Who is using the hurtful language?  What is the context?  How accurate are these hurtful words?  What are the voice tone and body language behind the words?  These and other factors can add up to anywhere from a little to a lot of hurt.

First off, who is using the hurtful language?  This can make all the difference in the world.  If the person trying to hurt me with words is a neighbor or an acquaintance I don’t really know, the words need not be very painful.  If the person is a friend, family member or other loved one whose opinion means something to me, the mean-spirited words can be very painful.  The closer one is to you, the more the words are going to tend to hurt.  Probably the most painful person to hear harsh words from would be a spouse or a parent.  These would be followed closely by one’s adult child.

One must always put things of this nature into context.  What is the argument about that is bringing on these hurtful words?  If a married couple is arguing about money, and one tells the other that they don’t know how to manage money (in a spiteful way), it would have some meaning.  However, if a couple is arguing about money and one says to the other something about the way they dress or something else irrelevant, the sting tends to lessen.

There’s an old saying:  “The truth hurts.”  This can be especially true in this situation.   If I know I’m very good at something and you tell me I’m not, it won’t necessarily mean anything.  I’ll know you’re saying these things just to be hurtful.  But, if you point out a weakness I already know I have, the pain can be twice as bad, because I know you’re being truthful.  Nothing hurts more than someone (correctly) pointing out faults for the sake of being hurtful.  It’s almost as if they were saving this painful thing to say-just to be hurtful.

I think what it all boils down to is intent.  Is the person who is using these vicious words trying to be hurtful out of spite?  Are the words relevant to your everyday life and interactions with this person?  Is there any truth behind the words?  Do you even care about this person’s opinions?  All of these things and more can add up to a pretty meaningful degree of pain delivered with “mere words.”