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Learn how words can harm, the definition of verbal abuse, and ideas for recovery as the abuser or the victim.

Definition Of Verbal Abuse

"Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me."  Unfortunately, this clich√© is untrue.  Words can hurt as badly as domestic violence, often with more permanent results.  This article will offer a definition of verbal abuse, examine how words can hurt and share some personal experience on the subject.  We'll cover some ideas for recovery, whether you're the abuser, the victim, or both.  

How Can Words Abuse Someone?  What if we yell, "Fire!" in a crowded theater, incite a riot, falsely accuse someone in court, or lie about an item we were selling?  All of these types of words can cause real harm...and so can words used to threaten, control or insult a "loved" one.  It could be a spouse, parent, child, teacher or boss...if they hold a position of authority or affection in your life, they hold the power to verbally abuse you.  Around 3,000 years ago, a guy named Solomon wrote, "The power of life and death are in the tongue."  

Words are far more powerful and permanent than people imagine.  Many have made their child a loser by calling him so.  My father often told only one of his kids, "You're going to end up in prison."  Is it a coincidence that he was the only child of five that spent time in prison?  All parents, beware, careless words can cause serious harm to children.  Careless words can harm a spouse, as well.   

I Was A Verbal Abuser!  Before I knew what was happening, with our marriage less than 2 years old, I was verbally abusing my wife.  I now know I was just living out the pattern my father had set, but my wife was significantly harmed before I saw it.  In defense of my Dad, I'm sure he loved all of us and never intended harm.  Still, he was constantly cursing and criticizing my Mom.  After my wedding, I had slowly begun to do the same thing...even using some of the same phrases.  Needless to say, my wife began to feel our home was a very dangerous environment in which to have an opinion, so she became distant and quiet, inviting even more anger and criticism from me.

By our second anniversary, I realized I was the problem and needed to change if we were to survive.  I discovered that my abuse had turned my wife from a confident, happy, professional to a sad, quiet person who frequently criticized and insulted herself.  Thinking it must somehow make me happy, she had learned to take the verbal club out of my hands and pound herself with it.  While this was 18 years ago, remembering still brings tears to my eyes.  I resolved at that time to change anything about me that caused her to be so fearful and self-loathing.  Over the course of 5 years, her attitude returned to confidence and happiness.  I had learned that words can cause harm.

Definition Of Verbal Abuse:  The power of words to cause serious and often permanent harm is absolute.  Solomon was right!  Since my purpose is not to offer legal advice, but to help you recover from verbal abuse, we're going to discuss the functional definition of verbal abuse, rather than a legal one.  Verbal abuse is any use of language that causes someone harm.  In future articles, I'll offer ways to discuss important subjects without doing harm.  Frankly, if we care as much about others as we do ourselves, we'll figure it out.  The "Golden Rule" comes to mind.  Criticism, cursing, recounting past offenses, expressing negative expectations, yelling, expressing distrust, all are forms of verbal abuse.  The level of abuse can be gauged by the frequency, volume and emotional weight given to the words. 

How To Recover From Verbal Abuse:  If you're an abuser, although you feel justified speaking like this, you must stop.  You may think you're pointing out something your child needs to change, or a weakness your husband has, but the more you degrade them, the worse they'll feel, the worse they'll become.  You may recall how you felt at times you were in their position.  If you find the you can't stop the abuse, get some professional help so you can stop hurting people you love.

If you're the victim, you need to understand the abuser is the one with the problem...not you.  Even if you've made mistakes, you don't deserve the verbal beatings you're getting.  If a loved one just won't stop verbally abusing you and won't get help with the problem, get away from them.  If they still won't get help, make the absence permanent.  Far too many families have used blood as an excuse for a tyrant to destroy the lives of any within range.

You can recover from verbal abuse if you still think enough of yourself to get it stopped or get away.  Afterwards, build on your self-esteem by staying away from people you feel are negative or toxic and replacing them with positive, encouraging people.  Keep an optimistic attitude.  Do things you find enjoyable and relaxing.  Replace the news with uplifting music and reading.  Do volunteer work or just help a neighbor.

You can overcome the abusive crud someone poured on you, simply by choosing to live a life that's the opposite of it.  As your recovery progresses over time, you become the person you want and dream to be, forgetting all about who your abuser said you were.

I want you to know there is someone who can help you recover, who loves you and wants only the best for you.  That someone is God.  If you want help from God, just click on Help Me God.

What are your experiences with verbal abuse?

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