So much talking and so little understanding. A famous proverb reminds us, “Fools find no pleasure in understanding, but delight in airing their own opinions.” Don’t we already hear the “fool” in others? Everyone has an opinion about EVERYTHING. The oddest part is that everyone is talking so much that few want any true understanding. Here is one of my all-time worse word blunders… Should have been listening, not talking…
I am just as guilty as anyone. How many times have I opened my mouth when I should have shut it?? I cringe at how much I have done this without knowing what I was truly talking about it. And how many times have I not stoped my mouth before hurting another??
Better than I used to be but still need to make more progress in this regard. You will soon see how I still have a stinking long way to go. At times, I am such a fool…
Who DOES Know It All?
Did you know that ALL 16-year-olds know more than ANYONE? It is true, ask almost any 16-year-old.
That can be easily understood and dismissed when they get it wrong. And when a 16-year-old gets it right, we need to slow down and actually listen.
Then we all grow up, usually by our chronological age instead of through acquiring wisdom. We have experiences, but exactly how does our speaking and listening skills improve? We have so many years of practicing speaking, but not truly listening.
I will get to MY awful ugly speaking blunder in a moment. I am working up the courage to tell you.
Chronic Illness & Trauma Forces A Listening Ear
I had the most unusual thought today. What if, while we are chronically ill and sorting out all the trauma in our lives, we are forced in a way to hear ourselves?
- The physical limitations of chronic illness keep us isolated and in our own company for a tremendous amount of time.
- The emotional aspect of trauma sometimes gets overwhelming while coupled with illness. It hits us in a different way during times of longterm illness.
With our own thoughts, our own nonsense, our own judgmental selves, our fears and arrogance and all of our issues, what are WE saying?
Slow down enough to really hear ourselves.
- How do we speak to others without enough thought for them instead of ourselves?
- How do we speak just to be speaking instead of listening?
- How do we think we know about something that we have no clue what we are talking about?
- How do we so intricately place our words so we make sure a subtle stab gets in?
- How are we stuck in all of our old habits and not willing to shut up long enough to create new speaking habits, called listening?
My Own Speaking Failures
Oh did I do a doozy. It was an all-time failure of stupid words. It was so bad I am not sure I am brave enough to share it.
Let me keep talking until I muster up the courage…
See… We talk, instead of listen, for all kinds of reasons.
Back to what started this thought process today: “Fools find no pleasure in understanding, but delight in airing their own opinions.”
I don’t want to be a fool. I certainly don’t delight in airing my hurtful words. Basically, I hate being wrong. Oh stars, am I a control freak, or just a caring person who is embarrassed by my failures??
Now I am stalling so I don’t have to tell you.
Okay, this is the deal. A while back I met a lady, complete stranger, who offered to help me do something. I needed help from anyone anywhere anytime so of course I said yes. That in itself is not wise. All help is not always helpful.
We got off to a really bad start and it went downhill from there. Things were said, feelings were hurt. It got so bad I excused myself for a moment to compose my emotions and my thoughts. I could tell that she had her issues ringing through in her hurtful words and I certainly was too tender to handle it with any understanding.
Then I messed up, so big that it was dangerously cruel.
We were talking about abuse and the complexity of it throughout our lives. I was feeling my own life without listening to her at all. Then I spoke about my life experience without the tender consideration I should have had for her, regardless of how offensive she was being to me.
That is the key right there. No matter what anyone else says or does to us, we have the power to chose our words. We have the responsibility to chose our words so that they are not so powerfully hurtful to others.
Since this website focus’ on trauma, let me say, when we are being abused in any way, our words need to adapt to protect us. That is not the case in this particular story. This lady was highly offensive to me, but I was in no danger from her ill-chosen words.
Still stalling because I am so entirely embarrassed and sorry for my words.
My abuse history has included all forms of physical, sexual and emotional abuse. I have endured them all with tremendous effects on my life and wellbeing. I have spent my whole life living with and reflecting on the situation. I have had many people ask me what the worse one was. Until this awful day with this lady, my answer has been that it is the emotional abuse. My explanation included, “At least I had a chance at ducking when the punch was coming.”
Okay, that is MY story, my perspective from my events of my life. It all changed on this day with this lady who had no wisdom in her words. Regardless of what she was saying to me, those words of mine were so terribly hurtful to her because of HER abuse story.
Stop The Retaliation
It does not matter what others are saying to us, we are responsible for our words.
When she first arrived and was saying highly inappropriate things to me, I continued to stop her and tell her that I did not agree and we had to change the subject because it was so offensive to me that I would not carry on with it. Those are appropriate words.
It was when we changed the conversation to abuse that I lost sight of her feelings. There is nothing okay about that, nothing.
Usually it comes out in unjust justification = retaliation.
“Well, she was being SO rude and hurtful to me that I needed to shut her up.”
“She did not know how or when to shut up so I did it for her.”
“Ha, I put her in her place.”
We usually don’t admit such cruelty out loud, but isn’t that what we secretly think?
I truly did not do this one on purpose. I truly got lost in thinking about my own abuse and my own problems that I did not take her into consideration. Almost as cruel. From her perspective, it made no difference why I said it. Damage was done. I added to her trauma. The thing I want least for any human on this earth.
How Does It Happen?
Had I not been stretched beyond my limitations, I would not have taken her beyond hers. Excuse or the answer to the problem of unruly words?
That is exactly why I think that chronic illness, coupled with trauma, stops us in our tracks to sort out the things of life that matter most. It makes us think this out in a completely different way. It stretches us beyond our limits to see our own shortcomings.
We have no control over others shortcomings but we sure do have control over ours. I know, we are all at our limits. Those of us with a history of trauma that will just not quit and then chronic illness to open every wound makes life feel unbearable.
While we are stuck in this muck, why don’t we learn how to make a difference? We can not only move through the yuck and muck but we can learn how our words so deeply effect others. We are certainly the victims of abuse and the trauma of it all has had a disturbing impact on our lives. That is pure truth.
What about not wanting to be stuck in the yuck-and-muck, not wanting victimization to get embedded in us? The victimization is what creates those cruel words that hurt others. I got sucked up in my victimization because of my immediate circumstances. I lost sight of this fellow human who needed patience and extreme kindness, not one big blast of a firing squad to tear her down.
Getting It Under Control
For me, making those total and complete cruel blunders humbles me. I do not want to be any part of a person who speaks like that, yet I am the one who said it. I am the one who got lost in my own thoughts and pain without enough concern for a fellow human being. Out spilled pure cruelty to someone who could not endure the words.
Everything we say either tears someone down or lifts them up. We get to choose what comes out of our mouths. It may not feel that way in the moment of our own distress but it something that can be learned.
Never, ever again, will I ever say, to any human, “emotional abuse is worse than physical abuse because at least we have a chance of ducking.” We have the choice of changing our words for future conversations because of our past cruel blunders.
“Fools find no pleasure in understanding, but delight in airing their own opinions.” ~ Proverbs 18:2
It is so incredibly easy to see this in everyone else spouting words that are hurtful or just simply useless words. It is time to look at ourselves. Make time to practice this, opportunity abounds.
Take Action of Observation
One of the ways of identifying such a shortcoming in ourselves is by watching others hurt us. Try to stand back the next time you get verbally attacked and watch this process. Don’t retaliate or react. Just examine the situation. Realize how deeply YOU were hurt by what just happened with their words.
Take a moment to try to remove your emotions from the situation and step into their skin. What in tarnation happened to them that has made them speak this way? It might simply be pure disregard and insensitivity. Other times it might be their own trauma they are not knowing how to deal with. There is always a reason behind why words are said. It is usually not the reason we think.
When it clicks inside of our minds and hearts that others are hurting just as much as we are, we become a vehicle for healing. Maybe it is our own healing. Maybe it is the patience and kindness we all desire that we show to someone else that helps them with their healing. Either way, it is progress.
We all see others as fools, how do you see yourself as a “fool?” How can you look past your own pain to see others pain?
Maribeth Baxter, MBNC (Certified Mind-Body Nourishment Coach)