I first heard that quote (okay, I first read that quote) a couple of months ago. It was recited by Jaime Lee Curtis in an anti-bullying ad. Evidently, that phrase has been around longer than Keith Richards (just how old is that guy?) but I’d never heard it.
I immediately nodded in understanding. It was like a lifelong puzzle had suddenly been solved. Everything surprisingly made sense. It was like a half-blind man put on his first pair of glasses. A fuzzy picture came into focus. You get the hint, I think. Hurt people do hurt other people.
I thought back to all of the times I, in my pain, hurt others. I have a quick tongue, and when my temper is fully ablaze, vitriolic words can come spewing forth from my rancid maw like scalding water from Old Faithful. I’ve said some heinous things in legendary fits of rage, and I regret every syllable.
In turn, I realize that those who have said horrible things about me (or to me) have done so because they were hurt. I didn’t purposely hurt those folks, but did so all the same. I’ve been labeled abusive, a cheater, an asshole, a chauvinist, etc. Frankly, I will admit to sometimes being an asshole. I do have a mild mood disorder, after all. I can’t always help it.
When I left my first wife, her anger exploded like Fat Man over Nagasaki. I was assaulted nearly every time I dropped off the twins at her house. Most of the time it was simply a torrential downpour of vicious words. Other times, there was kicking and punching involved (not by me). Occasionally, it was done in front of my children. It was always done in the front yard of her house, in full view of any neighbor that may have been outside. Why none of her neighbors ever called the police on her I’ll never know. Come to think of it, I don’t know why I never called the police.
The cause of her rage was simple: I had left her and she wanted me to come home. She was in pain. For the life of me I could never figure out her line of thinking. How exactly did she plan to convince me to come home by cussing me, accusing me of adultery, accusing me of doing nefarious things to her daughter, and physically assaulting me? If anything, her rage only confirmed that I had made the correct choice.
But then, years later, fate put me in that very same pair of shoes.
My second wife left me. It was my turn to hurt. My turn to rage. My turn to loose an anger storm upon an undeserving soul. To my credit (so to speak), I didn’t do anything nearly as heinous as had been done to me in the past, but I did say some shameful, pathetic things in my rage. One day I got an email from her: “Don’t you remember (your first wife) doing this to you?”
I did. And the shock of that realization was like stepping into a cold shower. I was treating my wife the same way my ex-wife had treated me. The day I realized that was one of the lowest days of my life. I had become that which I loathed.
Two things then happened. I went to a doctor and dragged every…fucking…skeleton out of my closet. He asked a few questions, nodded at the appropriate times, and then took out his magic prescription pad and wrote “mood stabilizer” on it. And it has helped immensely. I have much better control of my emotions since I began taking that medicine. The second was that I became cognizant of my word choice if/when I become upset. I make sure to over think things before I say them. I don’t want to say things in anger that I can never take back.
You see, most people assume that malicious things said in a fit of rage is simply the truth being unsheathed; like a shield that protects your true feelings just disappears when you’re angry. The truth is far more horrifying. When I was angry, I didn’t speak the truth. I purposely said things with the sole intention of hurting the recipient of my words. I wanted the person who had hurt me to be hurt in turn. I wanted the other to feel the pain I felt. I wanted karma’s hand to be dealt, and I wanted to be the dealer. There is one thing I said in a fit of rage once long ago that still burns me with shame when I think about it. I’ve thought many times of sharing that story here, but I’m too embarrassed, and I’ve shared some pretty embarrassing things about myself on this here blog.
What many people fail to realize is that words have power, and you should be careful how you wield them. For the longest time I was of a mind that words are merely that: words. But I have since been the victim of words forged as weapons. I have also wielded words as weapons and bore witness to the pain they caused. I’m not at all proud of it, but I can at least say that I’ve recognized it and changed my ways.
Please, be careful with your words. They might not mean much to you, but they may mean everything to another. Use them wisely.