It all started with a Facebook post that said, “I dare you to drop the most painful words you have ever heard.”
The very first comment got me reading the comment thread. I could not stop. It felt like if people could find the courage to write down the horribly inhumane things that others have said to them, I needed to bear witness. It was not just the things that people said that were painful, it was also who said those words. It is amazing what we think we have the right to say to others. It is amazing how often we as humans do not pause before we say something. How can we not know how long words stay with us?!
At first, I wanted to write this post to bear witness to the fact that this has happened in the universe. I thought I might share some of the actual comments or at least some of the kinds of things people said, but then I thought that most people probably do not need to hear those comments. Those comments do not need to be repeated. Having them said in the first place was hideous. Plus, I think when each of us thinks about the most painful words that were ever said to us, we can come up with our own examples. Unfortunately. We do not need to see the list of all of the ways we devastate each other. We already know. We are very fortunate if we do not.
Sometimes the most painful words were just words of hard truth. Those words were said by the events of this life and this universe. In those moments, I feel so much for the person who heard those words and for the person who had to say them. Someone has to say the words for the voiceless universe. That person is brave beyond measure when they stand in the storm of grief that follows the clap of thunder in the telling moment.
Sometimes though the painful things that have been said to us rise from perhaps some of the ugliest parts of ourselves. When I posted the ugly thing that was said to me, I did not post who said that thing. I could not bear to say it out loud. It is hard enough to know that the person who I love most on the planet could say something so painful to me. It feels impossible to tell the world who said that horrible thing. Because I love that person, I do not want others who love her to hear that ugliness.
As I read each comment in the thread, I said out loud, “That is not true. That is not true. That is not true.” Again and again I shouted to the void and to the universe that you are not the ugliness that is said to you. I found myself hoping with all of my heart that I have never said anything so intensely painful to anyone else. I promised that I would try my hardest for all the rest of my days to never devastate with my words.