Bullies might be sorry some day.
Who doesn’t have a story about being bullied? I remember being in grade school when there was a bigger girl who always lurked on the sidewalk with a couple of her friends. The three of them would call out and jeer at us smaller girls on our way to school. We used to say, “sticks and stones will break our bones, but names will never hurt us”. Now I know that name calling and blaming is hurtful, though.
My mother used to advise her young sometimes quarrelsome daughters, “be careful what you say, you can’t take words back”. There is great wisdom in that. As children we were taught that words should be chosen wisely; speaking truth and being kind. Words can wound, and bullies often use words to do so.
I have witnessed bullying as someone lay dying in a number of ways:
An elderly woman whose lifelong friend wrote words in a letter, questioning the righteousness of the dying woman’s life and creating both fear and confusion for her in her final days.
A son, whose Buddhist father lay dying, (now no longer able to refuse the priest coming to speak words over him), summoned the priest—perhaps to soothe his own need— giving little respect to his father’s wishes.
A final gesture of condemnation delivered, when an adult daughter sat at her dying father’s bedside, in his final days, and delivered words of blame and guilt for “not being there for her”.
Our words can speak encouragement and love. Our words can hurt and condemn.
A wise person* reminded us to say just a few things to the dying (perhaps for the living, too):
Please forgive me.
I forgive you.
I love you.
A lesson to learn: Choose our words carefully. We can’t take them back.
(*Ira Byock, The Four Things That Matter Most)