It was unexpected. Someone I most admired pulled out one of those little stiletto knives, thrust it into my gut, and twisted before I even knew what hit me. Breathing was difficult, I felt dizzy and sick. I felt like a failure. I felt bad to be in my own skin.
Of course, it wasn’t a real knife, but the pain of it hurt no less than if a friend unexpectedly stuck an Italian switchblade stuck into my gut.
Actually, I can think of two times it’s happened in the past few years; both times from Godly men I admired.
One was from a man who towered over me, face inches from mine, hands on my shoulders telling me what I disappointment I am. The other used words typed on a Facebook page, generically written, yet I knew they were for me. Mean words with venom that landed on me first thing, in the dawn, after I’d woken from a dream about disappointing my dad.
Counselors have terms for times like this: “triggered” and “shamed”
I was triggered because both of these situations came from people I trusted and admired. People I thought liked me as well. Shamed, because unlike embarrassment where you did something bad, shame says your very essence is bad.
Being in shame is traumatic.
I spend my life counseling people and researching what helps them, especially in the light of trauma. I knew what I had to do so I did it.
I share what I did in the list below. Here’s what I did to gain perspective and minimize the pain.
Ten ways you can respond when someone wounds you with their words:
1. Have your “compassionate self” talk to you – I know it sounds weird but it’s very helpful to have Mother Lucille speak to the hurt parts that live inside me. “Lucille, you’ve had a really bad day. People you trusted walloped you when you least expected it. I’m so sorry and I love you.”
2. Make contact with someone safe – Hopefully everyone has someone who would lie down in front of a truck for them. Someone who knows your flaws as well as your strengths, and loves you anyway.
3. Be vulnerable – Spill the dirt. It doesn’t feel good to open up, even to your safest person, to tell them how bad it feels to dissapoint the people you admire. But unless you open up, no one can move close to comfort you.
4. Cry – God gave us a powerful emotional release. Many people are afraid to cry, but if we weren’t supposed to cry, why did God make tears?
5. Let someone hold you – There are brain studies that show people feel half the amount of pain when a loved one holds their hand.
6. Ask yourself this question, “What is the person who wounded me telling me about himself?” – I know I would never do what these people did to me. Oh, I make a lot of mistakes and I’m far from perfect, but I could never treat someone mean in a deliberate way. The fact that these men can says something about them, not me.
7. Remind yourself that you don’t have to give your power away – I will never forget the story I heard about Oprah and the Cattlemen’s Association. Oprah made a remark that upset the association so they formed an all out assault on her. Oprah sought out advice from Dr. Phil. She kept asking, “Why are they doing this to me?” He told her to pull herself together, stop trying to figure out why it and start asking, “How am I going to respond?” In essence he was telling her to take her power back.
8. Forgive – There’s a phrase “Hurting people hurt people. My guess is both of these men felt stress in other parts of their life and I was an easy target. It might take a while, and I might not ever let my guard down around them, but I can forgive.
9. Put on some Don William’s music – Something about the simple lyrics sung by a man with a loving voice always grounds me.
10. Pray – “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).
How about you? Do you have some advice for the times people wound you with their words?
Lucille Zimmerman is a Licensed Professional Counselor with a private practice in Littleton, CO and an affiliate faculty teacher at Colorado Christian University.
She is also the author of Renewed: Finding Your Inner Happy in an Overwhelmed World. Through practical ideas and relatable anecdotes, readers can better understand their strengths and their passions—and address some of the underlying struggles or hurts that make them want to keep busy or minister to others to the detriment of themselves. Renewed can help nurture those areas of women’s lives to use them better for work, family, and service. It gives readers permission to examine where they spend their energy and time, and learn to set limits and listen to “that inner voice."