My grandmother used to say, “Aik chup, sau sukh.” Or in other words, “One moment of silence leads to a hundred moments of peace.”
One important aspect of this wisdom is that being hurtful while supposedly being affectionate or playful is just as bad (for instance: you are so crazy! You are such a lazy bum! You aren’t all that fat). Words can hurt, sometimes worse than sticks and stones, even when we think we are “just joking”.
Have you ever noticed that when we speak to our spouse, kids or even parents, our tone and body language can be aggressive and harsh? But when we deal with our in-laws or work colleagues we tend to walk on eggshells because we will lose them if we piss them off.
The other day my friend was complaining to me about his wife, who is also a dear friend. According to him, she complains constantly and always argues with him. I couldn’t believe him since I know a very different version of her, kind and very pleasant.
I asked him if he had discussed this with her since he was obviously bitter about her choice of words. He said yes but that his wife’s reasoning was that she doesn’t have anyone else to express herself to. He is her husband and she should be able to be honest and upfront with him. Strange reasoning, I think, because there is a marked difference in being honest and being cruel.
Being tired or lonely or blunt are just not good enough reasons to use toxic words and statements. They are just excuses. These words are the reason why seemingly happy couples end up divorced years into their marriage.
Siblings tend to use a lot of toxic words in jest or just to ‘bug’ each other. But those jests can affect the psyche of a person for life. The toxic words we use are like a slow releasing poison injected into someone’s mind.
Not only do such words hurt but they cause toxicity in the relationship between siblings. One solution is for parents to monitor such behaviour and even keep a swear jar at home. Every time a child uses hurtful language, they have to put money into the swear jar. This deters nasty words.
People can be very irrational when it comes to their own close family. I’ve heard parents call their own child a ‘liar’, ‘stupid’ or even make statements like “why can’t you ever do anything right?” But if a friend’s child breaks a glass or is naughty we smile and act like it is no big deal.
Ultimately we need to learn to love and respect our close relationships first. I say “learn to love” because we have been taught by our elders to give more importance to others. We take for granted the people who should actually be at the top of our priority list.
We need to watch what we say and how we say it. There is no need to carry your issues with the outside world into your home. Our homes need to be a peaceful space, not a war zone that you and members of your household are constantly trying to escape from.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 18th, 2014.
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