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Wednesday, September 16, 2015

My Grade (So Far): Vulnerability

vulnerability: the state of being capable of or susceptible to being wounded or hurt, as by a weapon. 

Because of my history, until consulting the dictionary, I'd never connected vulnerability with weapons. But the definition did prompt some reflecting on my capability or susceptibility to being wounded or hurt even if the hurt has been inflicted by non-physical means.

"Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me". I'm hard pressed to come up with a more wrongheaded adage than that. Words wound; words hurt. Denying this simple truth is the first step toward giving ourselves permission to say ugly, hateful things. In my experience, even the most empathy-impaired person can readily recall words that have done them psychic damage, even when that damage is minimized with a meaningless euphemism like "whatever". Listen carefully when others describe a painful part of their past; notice how frequently words have been the cause of pain. Notice equally how often the useless advice given to people wounded by the words of others is some variation on a familiar trio: "buck up/grow up/suck it up".

Thin skin or thick skin? Over-sensitive or insensitive? Your grade (so far) on vulnerability? I'll happily take my "B" and continue to err on the side of believing words and non-physical actions can wound or hurt. I'm guessing that strategy may help people as vulnerable as I enjoy the time they spend with me.

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