**This is a work of nonfiction based on actual events that I have experienced firsthand; used with permission.
One of my most painful friendship breakups was with someone I met as an adult. We seemed to have a lot in common and got along great at first. But over time, it became apparent that we had very different values and lifestyles.
I felt like I was constantly walking on eggshells around her, afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing. The final straw came when she said something hurtful to me during a disagreement. I always knew that words could be as harmful, but this was the first time I truly understood how much damage they could do.
After that, I decided to end the friendship. It was hard, but it was necessary. And even though it hurt at the time, I know now that it was the right decision.
They say actions speak louder than words, but that’s not always true.
Words can hurt just as much as physical blows, and sometimes even more. After having such a painful experience with my friend, I became more intentional about what I say to people. I try to be mindful of my word choices, particularly when I’m upset or emotional.
Once you’ve said something hurtful to someone, they can’t un-hear it. The damage is done, and it can be tough to repair.
Words affect the body
I can still remember how my heart raced while I was reading the text message from my friend. Her words were harsh and void of love. They hit me like a ton of bricks, and I felt my entire body tense up.
At that moment, I realized that words could not only hurt our feelings but they can also affect our physical bodies. When we’re exposed to negativity, our body responds accordingly. Our heart rate increases, we start to sweat, and we may even feel like we can’t breathe.
A 2010 study published in Science Direct found that words perceived as painful or harmful cause the body to release stress hormones.
Stress hormones cause physical changes in the body, including an increased heart rate and elevation in blood pressure. Generally speaking, stress impacts every system in the body. In some cases, repeated spikes in stress hormones can even lead to migraines or stomach ulcers.
It’s essential to be mindful of the words we use, not just because we don’t want to hurt people but also because we don’t want to cause physical harm to ourselves or others.
Triggers are evidence of old pain
Unhealed pain is not benign. Sometimes we think we have dealt with something just because we haven’t thought about it in a while. But that doesn’t mean the hurt has gone away. It might be lurking just below the surface, waiting to be triggered by something someone says or does.
My friend and I had a difference of opinion, and on the surface, it seemed as if we were talking about the present, but what we were doing was rehashing old pain. It’s like when you get a cut on your finger. The cut eventually heals, but the pain comes rushing back if you bang it against something.
In the same way, our unhealed wounds can be triggered by seemingly innocuous things. That’s why we need to be aware of what’s going on to deal with the pain in a healthy way.
When we can recognize our triggers and deal with our old pain, we can create healthy relationships with others. We can also avoid causing pain to others by being intentional about our words.
What do you think? Have you ever experienced a situation where words have hurt you? How did you deal with it?
Do you think we need to be more mindful of our words? Why or why not?
I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.