Thursday, October 19, 2017

on words that wound: the sound of silence

Today, I just wanted to scream. Yell my head off. Intervene. But I kept silent.

I still don’t know if I did the right thing. It feels like I didn’t.

The woman in the store that was screaming at the 3-year-old who was screaming. I wanted to scream right at her to stop. Instead I turned away and made my way to the front of the store. The screaming continued, it followed me to the register and out into the parking lot.

By then the girl was crying in earnest. Not throwing a tantrum anymore, just crying. They walked right up beside my van, and the woman started screaming the most vile curse words imaginable at the little one.

Still I was silent.

I watched, yes I watched very carefully, because if she had laid a hand on that girl I would have intervened, called the police, all of it.

But she didn’t, and so I didn’t.

I felt helpless and half sick, and unsure and confused about what, if any, responsibility I had.

I was worried that she would do far worse to the child. I’m still worried about that.

But I didn’t DO anything.

My 12-year-old grandson was with me, and he was absolutely horrified. As we sat there discussing what had happened, the woman and the child disappeared from sight.

I still feel half sick, and I still don’t know if I should have done something or if it would have only made matters worse.

What I do know, however, is that words wound. They are damaging. Tone of voice carries meaning, for better or for worse. This extreme example has made me remember to watch my words. To check my tone. With the young people I love, and with the old people I love. The ones in between too.

I saw that little girl’s face. Indeed, she was throwing a monstrous tantrum in the store. I know, it’s frustrating to manage a situation like that. I remember. I’m not taking anything away from the absolute fact that mothering is the hardest thing. In the world.

I remember yelling at my own kids. I wish I hadn’t but I did. Out of anger, frustration, fear, whatever – I yelled. So I’m not saying anyone is bad for yelling at their kids. It happens.

And kids throw tantrums. It happens. 

But there is a broad line between discipline and abuse. This was so extreme, so out of control, frankly it was scary.

My heart is heavy now, and I can’t shake those images. My grandson said it was very depressing. Disturbing. He is right.

I don’t know what would have happened if I would have spoken up. I’ll never know.

I’ll be praying for that fit-throwing little girl, that she is safe, that her wounds won’t be too deep, that they will heal. That people will come into her life and speak love and lightness and acceptance to her.

And I will be a little more careful with my words, I will think about my tone of voice – not just volume, but tone. Tone of voice can carry so much weight. It can call you stupid, incompetent, frustrating, irritating, a liar. When the tone is hurtful, the words sometimes don’t matter.

And this:

I always have the option to be kind. Even when I’m angry, frustrated or scared – I can still be kind with my words and my tone of voice. Even if the words are hard to hear, even if they correct and instruct, I can be kind.

Is that easy? Of course not. But it matters.

I’m still feeling the turmoil of that scene, and I admit that I am scared for that little girl. I didn’t say anything, didn’t act.

It’s too late now.

But I can carry the lesson with me, and choose to be kind even when it’s hard. I can.




  1. Thank you for sharing your pain. I, too, will pray for this little girl that she find healing and strength. That she may be surrounded by other adults in her life who will teach her this is not the way. I will also pray for the adult that she might find peace and calm and sense enough to seek help if needed. For both that tomorrow is a better day. For you that you can show yourself grace. I know you feel like you didn't do anything, but prayer is something. Talking to your grandson is something. Speaking out to all of us is something. I had a similar situation years ago that I've never gotten over. A little girl was being belted in a public restroom stall. I was horrified. I was also terrified for my own safety. I didn't have a cell phone at the time and by the time I found an officer, she was gone. I still pray for that little one...and her mother.

    1. Oh thank you. Your words are soothing in my turmoil. And your prayers - they do matter. I'm grateful.

  2. Since TF said it so eloquently, there's not much more to say. It's hard to know whether intervening would have made the situation better or worse. Maybe better 'for the moment', but this mother's heart is not going to be changed in her fit of anger. It's unlikely, in her state, that she would have been receptive to any intervention. You did the best you could at the time, Angie, and now you've doing more than what most people would do by praying, sharing, mentoring your grandson and through self-awareness. I pray this mother's heart will be renewed by the power of the Holy Spirit.

    1. Yes, that mama's heart needs Jesus. I'm praying with you.


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