I came across someone on Twitter who posted that she was struggling to deal with some awful things a person said to her recently.
Dealing with the aftermath of hurtful words is painful. I often wish we could find a level of peace in our world where such experiences were extinguished. However at the moment, this is where we are. There is, thankfully, a silver lining. There are two things we can see from such an experience that have the potential to change our entire lives.
First, a brief reminder that for every time we are the person hurt by another’s words, there are assuredly times our words hurt others, whether we intend that or not. Let’s always keep in mind the power of encouragement over discouragement. Each day is an opportunity to spread one and not the other.
Second, let’s talk for a minute about truth, which is the focus of this post. You perhaps have heard the old adage “The truth shall make you free.” This is a relatively common saying these days, which originated from the Christian Bible in John 8:32. Not into Scripture? There’s no shortage of similar wisdom throughout human history.
“Truth never damages a cause that is just.”
– Mahatma Gandhi
“An unbelieved truth can hurt a man much more than a lie.”
– John Steinbeck
“In war, the first casualty is truth.”
– Terry Hayes
All these proverbs points us to important knowledge: The power and gravity of truth.
When we consider the idea that truth can set us free, it is easy to accept it as a mantra but not apply it to our daily lives. Here is my suggestion, which has helped me tremendously. When someone insults you, hit pause on the anxious or angry feelings that bubble up. I’m not saying dismiss them or ignore them, but ask them to hold off a moment while you do some detective work.
Look at what the person said to you, and ask if there is any truth in it. Do so as though you aren’t even part of the situation, but an outside observer. “Step back” as it were, and just look at what is there.
- If you find some nugget of truth in the insult, congratulations. You’ve just discovered something about yourself that needs to change. You are the best person for the job of changing you, so this insight is extremely valuable. After hitting unpause on your grief over how this information was delivered, you can sincerely thank the person who showed you something you needed to see.
- If, on the other hand, there is no truth in what they’ve said to you, terrific. Their words are untrue, and as such, meaningless. Because lies cannot set you free. They only hold you captive, and they only do so if you let them. A healthy dose of truth is all that is needed to remove those chains and be on your way. Observe the lie, acknowledge it as untrue, and revel in the truth that reminds you those other words are empty. They cannot hurt you, because they are simply inaccurate. There’s no reason to be insulted by someone who is incorrect. There is no truth to their words.
I must make note, to prevent inevitable discouragement, that this is far easier said than done. The good news is each time you attempt it, the process will become easier. Like any exercise, it will suck at first. So long as you keep on the path towards improvement, it will get better, I promise. Then one day you will find that nearly any insult, true or not, has only positive effects on you. And that will be a very good day indeed.