“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”
That was one of the first untruths many of our parents armed us with as developing individuals. Not with the intent to deceive us, but to plant the seed that we have the power to overcome and move past anything that doesn’t destroy our physical existence.
As I got older I realized words did hurt.
I remember the first time he cursed at me. “They’re just words,” I thought. “He’s just angry.”
Then he got fired and the cursing became part of his normal vocabulary. Then the insults started. The consistent jab at my insecurities I already had produced the result he wanted. Now we were miserable together. I loved him. He loved my vulnerability. I stayed because I didn’t want to fail at love. And because sometimes the words weren’t cruel; sometimes they were exactly what I wanted to hear. He said nice words to my family. He wrote me Poetry. Sometimes the words were beautiful.
I remember the first time he grabbed me.
I was washing dishes and ignoring his insulting rants. He grabbed my arm so hard it left a bruise. He threw me down on the cold kitchen floor and just stared at me. I cried. He walked away, grabbed his keys and left. I packed a few things and left. I never came back.
It took two years for me to recognize that the abuse began long before he’d ever touched me; they began with his words.
I began to accept my responsibility in the abuse; that is, I ignored my inner voice. I justified his poor behavior because I didn’t want to be alone. I didn’t set boundaries.
I wrote positive things to myself in a journal for six months.
I finally forgave myself.
Three years ago I ran into him at Target. He apologized and hugged me. I realized that I had already forgiven him. Not because the abuse wasn’t real, but because the seed my parents planted was real.
Not only did I overcome and move past a painful experience, I became a better person because of it.
I’m very careful with my words now, because I know how much they can hurt. I try to treat others the way that I want to be treated as well.
I forgave him, because I want those that I have hurt to someday forgive me.
In the spirit of sharing our stories, we invite you to share your story with us. The Six Brown Chicks are selecting correspondents to join us on this blog and on the road. If you're interested, email email@example.com