Having healthy boundaries with words is a big deal. The things we say will make or break us as individuals and our words directly affect every aspect of every relationship. When we are careful and measured with our words we can maintain our relationships. Contrarily, being brash and cruel leads to hurt feelings and contempt and is a harrowing way to move through life. Think back to the times when someone said awful things to you about your personality, choices, or loved ones. I’m willing to bet those words led to that relationship’s demise. I’ve never found myself in those situations thinking, “Hey, they’re right and I’m wrong. Gosh, I’m just so glad they told me that my choice was stupid and that I would live to regret this!” No, that has never happened. Because instead of speaking from a place of love, people too often speak from a place of judgmental bitterness and that hurts.
No matter where the other person might be coming from when they said those negative things, if they were accusing my personality, behaviors, or beliefs then I can guarantee you that I felt attacked, sad, and mad. I felt devastated and betrayed. And I felt that it would take a long time for that hurt to heal and for the relationship to get back on track, if ever. Relationships do not thrive on major setbacks such as this.
For the most part though, I am not often ripped to shreds by other people’s words (thank God). Instead, it’s usually a casual misuse of words that gets us all into trouble. For example, last week at work there were two different meetings scheduled in the same room at the same time. I received the following messages:
Person A: “You double-booked the meeting room :(”
Person B: “Hey, the meeting room was double-booked, do you know what happened? Thanks, girl!”
Reader, please note that I did not double-book the meeting room and I do not know how it happened. So, I was grateful for Person B’s message, in which there was no accusation or blame. Person A made me feel annoyed and aggravated. In a day where there are plenty of real problems, Person A’s casual misuse of words put pressure on our relationship. Working relationships are hard enough as it is so why add fuel to the fire?
We all mess up with our wording. I know I’ve been Person A countless times and I know I’ve been hateful in the name of “just being honest.” But after feeling and observing the misery this causes, I decided to start being more careful. Because after we’ve “been honest” and hurt someone, the damage is done. “Forgive and forget” is a nice concept but when is it ever a reality? Sure, the other person may accept our apology and talk to us again, but that doesn’t mean the wound is healed and the hurt feeling is gone. When we use our words to hurt others, we run the risk of pushing the other person into a chasm of pain. Your apology alone does not get them out and undo the damage; if you’re lucky, the apology merely begins the healing process. We also know that in many cases the relationship is destroyed and doesn’t survive the attack.
I would rather cut out this excess drama and keep boundaries around my words. I carefully avoid not sharing my opinion about your decision, because it’s your decision, not mine. What does my opinion have to do with anything at all? Nothing. At work, if I have to place blame, state judgement, or say too much to explain something to a coworker then I simply do not bother with it. These boundaries keep me on my toes and I have to be vigilant because my opinion, judgement, and blame are always just right there, ready to go, all the time.
I feel that having healthy boundaries with words is a life-long goal that will always require special care and attention. That might mean I re-evaluate and write more thoughts on this in the future. As it stands, I have contemplated this post for about a year now. I was timid to tackle this big, daunting subject because how would I share about being hurt by words and having hurt others with words myself? As we near the holidays though, this topic is definitely on my mind more. The holiday season requires more face-to-face time with acquaintances, coworkers, friends, and family. I urge you to take the opportunities to express nothing but love, light, and positivity. Because, why not? Contemplate the outcome of choosing to do the opposite: is hurting feelings and causing pain truly your goal? (If so, is that a good goal to have??) Finally, the book The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom is a great, easy read and offers more information on the subject of self-growth and using your words to promote harmony. Let’s use our words to bolster good in the lives of those around us, and the world at large.