A little over a week ago on a Friday morning while I was at work my phone rang. I happened to be in the back of the store doing some work in inventory so I took the call. The conversation went like this, “Hi, Ms. Rogers, this is *** calling on behalf of your doctor. Have you received the results back from your mammogram? Because we have and it showed a .9 centimeter area of concern. So you need to come in for a diagnostic mammogram as soon as possible.”
I stood there stunned by the words. As a seven-year breast cancer survivor, those were words I simply never wanted to hear again. With all the radiation exposure I’ve had, the last thing I wanted was more X-rays. I said to the caller, “This isn’t my first rodeo; why don’t we just cut to the chase and go for the MRI. That’s how my original cancer was caught and I’m due for an MRI anyway.”
“Because you need a diagnostic mammogram,” she replied.
I continued to plead my case. “From my experience a diagnostic mammogram isn’t going to work on me.” I went on to explain why.
“But you have to have a diagnostic mammogram.” The argument went on for a few minutes, with her never answering my basic question of “why?” Who was I talking to? Nurse Ratched? I gave up, hung up the phone, ready to burst into tears. Not only had the news been grave, I felt as though she hadn’t listened to me at all, I thought her delivery callous, and to top it all off, she’d called me on a Friday with the news. That meant I could do nothing but stew and worry over the situation for an entire weekend.
I waited an hour and called the office back with the intention of talking to my doctor about the situation. It turned out she was off for the day. So, not only had I received this news in a most heartless way, I had no doctor to talk to about it until Monday. The next five days were absolute agony for me, for my husband, some dear friends, and extended family.
I don’t talk about all of this to garner sympathy or to dwell on what happened to me. In fact, on Monday I did finally speak with the doctor who clarified the need for a diagnostic mammogram. On Wednesday, after three hours of sitting in radiology and going through multiple procedures, I got the news that all is fine.
No, the reason I brought this story up is to call attention to the things we say to others, most specifically I want to talk about when seemingly benign words hurt. The old adage of, “Stick and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me,” is simply bullshit. Words matter. Verbal abuse can come in many forms. Most recently, a young girl was convicted of involuntary manslaughter for encouraging her suicidal boyfriend to get back in the car and kill himself with carbon monoxide poisoning. But it’s not just this type of gross abuse that causes serious harm.
When Words Hurt
Neither is it only name-calling, or bashing someone for being different, that hurts people. What I wanted to park on today, are the times we simply say things at the wrong time, or when we speak without choosing our words carefully. The fast pace of today’s living lends itself to thoughtless words and insensitivity. Moreover, lets face it, our politicians do nothing to better the situation with their crass examples. We can be in such a hurry that we don’t realize there is a human on the other end of the phone, or standing in front of us, who will take our words, filter it through their experiences and psyche, and draw conclusions of doubt, fear, woundedness, sadness, or a host of other hurts.
Even the Bible speaks of the vile tongue and the damage it can cause. “Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things…But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing.” Yes, it is a Biblical fact that words do harm.
Treating Malignancy of the Tongue
Fortunately, there is a remedy for the evil tongue we all possess. “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his words are done in the meekness of wisdom. The wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” In other WORDS, we must simply exercise wisdom. We must think before speaking. And our motivation in speaking with others must be peaceable and gentle, humble and full of mercy.
As a contrast to that one nurse practitioner, I had many come alongside me who ministered to me with words of wisdom, kindness, concern, and love. Thank you to all my dear friends and family who carried me through. You all rock. Let me, then, leave you with these words: you are worthy. You are worthy of being loved, worthy of loving. So, give love, live loved, speak kindly and thoughtfully, with mercy and understanding. Sequester the jury of your mind to think before releasing your tongue.