by Fionn Zarubica

Miroku BosatsuIt has been said that the tongue pierces deeper than the spear.

A Serbian friend of mine and I like to grab a moment whenever we can to touch base and catch up on things.  I am really blessed by this friendship because we can talk about far reaching and important issues, and we can do it on the fly.

Recently, I commented during one of our conversations that I think there is very little difference between verbal and physical abuse.  OK, sounds intense for a catch up conversation, but such is the nature of our friendship.

Anyhow, to my surprise she said that in her view, in Serbia, this concept of verbal abuse being at a par with physical abuse does not exist.  It is not in the consciousness.  Is this really not a part of the conversation yet?

Serbians are decidedly dynamic in their verbal interactions.  In fact, non-Serbs often think we are fighting when we are merely having a nice little chat.  However, there is a cruelty that can manifest, not only directly, but also in third party exchanges. 

I do not know if my Serbian friend is right, but what I do know is that words can hurt or heal, and verbal abuse has the exact same effect as physical abuse: It traumatizes and destroys.

Children have no defense against this sort of aggression; but we as adults do, and that is to recognize that the success of any attack is at the discretion of the recipient. 

We cannot control other people, or avoid everyone who seeks to come against us; in fact we shouldn’t even try.  But we can sidestep the pierce of the spear. 

If someone is using words to hurt, acknowledge it for what it is, say “no thank you” and walk away.  Do not accept less than what is correct; and do not retaliate.  Tuning in to our own joy and acting on our actual value is the most powerful defense.  Nothing can stand against that. 

In as much as it affects us, the key is to examine whether we believe the attacker, and whether we run the same litany of criticisms within ourselves.  Because, if we are attacked and we agree with the attacker, then they have an instant win.

If we can unearth the suppressed negative dialogue and plant in its place a new affirmation, a new message from which to operate, then we won’t even notice if a thousand spears sail over our heads.

In the interest of creating a space for joy to come in and stay, let us become conscious participants in ending all cycles of violence, however and wherever they manifest.

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Image: Miroku Bosatsu, "Buddha of the Future", Koryu-ji Temple, Kyoto, Japan