art work by John Ceprano
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Words Are Like Spears

A Yoruban proverb goes “Words are like spears: Once they leave your lips they can never come back.” In the conflict management field, where I spend most of my time, I have to say this quote and its meaning struck me as more profound than many. In the midst of conflict, many of us say things we regret and agonize about for long periods, even when the conflict is ostensibly over. What is more, there is no taking back the things that cut us deeply or that we say that cut others deeply. Rather, there is often an indelible mark left by sharp words.

This week’s Conflict Mastery Quest(ions) blog asks you to consider a time when someone expressed spear-like words to you and another when you expressed words that hurt someone deeply.

  • When you think of a time someone said something very hurtful to you that remains raw, what was that?
  • What made that (your answer to the above question) especially cutting?
  • How would you describe the feelings you experienced as a result?
  • When you think about the interaction now, what do you think led to the person saying something that hurt so deeply?
  • For what have you forgiven the person for? What have you not forgiven?
  • What might heal the wound for you?
  • When you have hurt someone else deeply, what did you say and do? What propelled you to do so?
  • What do you think the other person feels about this now?
  • What has stuck with you for which you cannot forgive yourself?
  • What might you do to help heal the other person’s wound?
  • What else occurs to you as you consider these questions?
  • What insights do you have?


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