Look at this report card. Are you really that stupid?”
“As much money as we’ve spent on your eyes you better never take those glasses off.”
“Stop being a sissy. Fight back when someone pushes you.”
“I wish you’d never been born.”
“We are paying for you to learn classic piano stop playing that n—-r music. What is wrong with you?”
And the list goes on and on. Each word spoken from what should have been a nurturing parent instead acted as a sword piercing deeply into the heart of a small boy.
After all these years you would think I would be past it all. I have had some failures and I have had some successes. It has taken me a long time to like the man I have grown to be.
Given the harsh effects of such hateful words on my psyche and my soul you’d think I’d never utter a hateful or derogatory word to another human being. Would that were true; alas, it isn’t.
After having grown up in a house of rage and resentment, there are times I live what I have learned. By no means is it ever right or ever allowable. It’s mean and unkind and destructive. To utter unkind words to another created in the image of G-d is wrong on many levels. The damage can never be undone.
I would much rather take a physical beating - and there were many in our house - than to be cut to shreds by the words of someone who claims to love you.
As a ba’al teshuvah I had hoped there would be a safe place for me among our people. I am very transparent and probably share my story when I shouldn’t. I feel it is important to err on the side of honesty rather than later be accused of withholding the truth. I have been surprised both good and bad by the reactions and words of our people. Some have lovingly embraced me and others have let me know there wasn’t a place for someone who had wasted years with the baggage attending the poor choices I’ve made in the past. So be it.
I have a niche so to speak and I have a voice and people who love me. I also have those people we are told to be thankful for in our lives. I’m not speaking of the wonderful loving and encouraging souls that are there but rather I speak of those who will try the very fiber of our being with their button-pushing provocations. We are taught to be thankful for these people as they stimulate growth. If growth comes through failure than I am on my way to being a giant.
All too often my intent is good, my heart is sincere, my desire to respond to criticism kindly is not just rhetoric and my commitment to not let annoying people get to me is something I take very seriously.
I know how powerful words are and I understand completely how they can create or destroy. Life and death are in the power of the tongue. You’d think something so small would not wield so much power. Oy!
What to do? How do I master this area of my life which gives me more trouble than any other? Truthfully I’ve been drug free for well over a decade and I have not had the desire to use drugs. I know what the end result will be. So why the problem with this seemingly less difficult struggle in my life?
There are many reasons we respond as we do. I can’t speak for anyone else. While it is wrong for people to not let me forget my past I don’t really get upset seeing as I include my story in everyday life and it aids in my being able to reach some people who would otherwise not be open to hearing from me.
Why do I lash out? Must someone pay for the sins of my parents? No! That’s absurd on the surface. How does the anger resolve? Why do I find myself falling into the negative when responding to unkind words? So many questions and not many answers.
A couple of days ago someone kept calling me about a problem with their computer. After the third call I informed them I’d been sick all week and I did not feel like dealing with them at the moment and I would call the next day. Then the phone rang again and here we go. Really? I was not kind. I informed them how selfish their actions were and how very disrespectful they were being. Both are true. The person is one of the most self-centered people I know and they have no respect for anyone else’s time or needs. Yet I could’ve allowed the call to go to voicemail and dealt with it later. Why the need to unleash fury? I suppose I could justify it. Some people would agree the person had it coming. We’d be wrong. I was wrong.
I realize this musing is somewhat muddled. If the answers were clear the musing would be too. The struggling with the questions is where we grow. I am never proud when I respond improperly. There is no provocation deserving of ugliness. I am not proud when I behave in a manner that is less than that which I have been created to be. But I do fail. I am sure some of you do. It is you who do I am reaching out to.
I am committing to making today better than yesterday. If that means I must limit my interaction with others that’s just how it will have to be. If I know a situation is volatile I will avoid it until I am certain I can handle it without falling into old patterns of responding to ugliness with ugliness. For those who struggle along these lines, I hope you will join me and set some goals for yourself too.
For those who love me even when I’m a jerk much love back to you. As a Jew I know better than to devolve into senseless arguments with people who are probably hurting. May we all grow in love and speak words of love even when we don’t feel like it.