Damaging Words

Commentary by Dr. Ursula A. Falk


A Broken Pot Never Becomes Whole


Once a vessel is broken or fractured it never regains its strength regardless of how much glue we apply to repair it.  This adage is true of vessels, of pictures and of unnamed objects in general.  It also applies to humans.  Once an individual has been damaged by acts or deeds very little can be achieved  to alter the damage that has been done.  It is not only the gun, the knife, or the illness that causes the pain and the fracture, it is frequently the spoken word that causes the damage.  “Loshen Horre,” the evil tongue, can cause hurt, anger, resentment,  ill feelings and denigration. The vicious words that have been used can have a long life of unhappiness, ill feeling and self hatred to the victim, the object, the target of the evil doer, the oppressor, the gossip.

There are innumerable examples of the results of the end product of the thus injured individual.  The child that has been beaten, neglected, ridiculed or otherwise hurt will become the adult who is fearful, angry, and distressed, and the misdeeds perpetrated will never leave him.  The girl that has been molested will have skewed reactions toward her gender, her sexuality, and her self respect.  Victims of the holocaust will always be fearful, cautious, and ready to run, taking their proverbial fiddle with them.  They may react like Coleridge’s “Ancient Mariner,” who “stoppeth one by three” to tell their tale, their story, their life threatening experiences to any one who will listen.  The repetition of their experiences gives them reassurance that this will possibly never happen to them again or that everyone should beware! 

The adult who has been the object of gossip will have the “Mark of Zorro” on him and will be labeled.  His persona will be minimized as a result of the evil words spoken about him and he can never regain his integrity.  If for some reason he is not fully aware of that with which he has been painted, the aura about him has been changed.  A direct confrontation against another can be a very painful experience.  Although the targeted person can defend herself she will never feel the same against the perpetrator, of the hatred expressed.  A bitter taste, an aura, will remain and the good feeling that was once felt is gone.  When a person is attacked with negative words he will be angry but he will possibly believe the ugliness, the venom that has been directed at him.  If she is called ugly she will believe it.  If she is called stupid or attacked with hostility she will feel unlovable and her very being will retaliate against the perpetrator or, worse, against herself by believing that which has been hurled at her.

Apologies spoken with sincerity can be comforting.  They can never make up if the hurt has been too deep or if the victim is a very sensitive human who has experienced much pain in his or her life.  Four letter words hurled against a person are never acceptable and doubly not if they come from a peer or an educated individual.

There are deeds that will affect the psyche or the deepest feelings that one has, the anger, the insecurity that follows the person for eternity.  One such example is the bridegroom who left his would be bride a day before the “Chuppah.” He had pledged his eternal love and devotion to the young woman and they were “deeply in love.”  The would be “Chosen” (bridegroom) was talked out of the marriage by his dysfunctional family, so he disappeared.  Ultimately because of the devastation of the bride, she reunited with him, and married the man.  She could never totally trust him, never felt truly loved again, and the shadow of his desertion followed her all the days of her marriage.

Truly religious persons must never embarrass another human being with words or deeds.  Words can injure, they can leave a lasting effect. Religion is not just attending synagogue or a religious institution.  They must be respectful to their fellow human beings to be understanding of human frailties,  to be nonjudgmental.  They must be able to love and be giving.  Just following rituals and ceremonies does not a just human being make.  Let us all be especially careful of the words that we speak to our fellow Jews and our fellow men. 


Dr. Ursula A. Falk is a psychotherapist in private practice and the author of several books and articles.

Home ] Up ]