Few on a path of self improvement would deny that physical violence must be avoided but not all realize that violence in speech is highly detrimental too. While physical violence drags the human soul back to the level of animals from whence it arose, verbal violence pushes a human to misery and denies the joy a human deserves.
A path of self improvement involves a study of self and constant evaluation of one’s behavior to discover the good and the bad so that one may reduce bad and enhance good. Realizing what is poor is the first step, after that an effort is required to banish the shortcoming since it may persist out of habit for longer. I too do a self review all the time and have come to realize that, while use of physical violence has not been a problem with me most of my life, I have been prone to use verbal violence at times and it is a shortcoming I am working on to eradicate, even though advanced in age. It is never too late for self improvement. Life continues even after we leave this world. We carry our habits with us to the next world.
I had initially used “speech” in title but changed it to “words” later for written communication has a similar effect as verbal one and in the present electronic age a lot more communication takes place through written words than verbal ones. Hurtful or harsh word can hurt longer than physical hurt, they go deeper and in case one faces a constant volley of it, even when milder, such as in nagging, constant criticism, ridiculing or long arguments, it can cause grave psychological damage. There are cases of persons who have been driven to suicide because of it or to a shrink instead. Some married couples have escaped this last through divorce and while men have been guiltier of physical violence, it is women who have been guiltier of nagging and verbal violence.
At times, one feels compelled to use verbal violence against foul or bad behavior by another human but it is better not to become as foul through violent speech. It does not mean that we have to keep silent about bad behavior but there are civilized ways to do it when one decides to do it that way. A calm statement of facts may be civilized and at times mixing humor with criticism, when appropriate, makes it easy to swallow just as sugar makes it easy to swallow bitter medicine. Civilized criticism is not easy when one is angry and those are times it is best to remain silent and withdraw. The most important thing to note is that to err is human and we all make mistakes as we journey through life and when we do that, we would not like others to be unkind about it. The famous Saint Kabir has pointed out that if one is abused and one responds with abuse, it may become a volley of a thousand abuses, while if one remains silent, it stops at that one abuse.
Every rule has an exception and just as physical violence is at times necessary in self defense, verbal violence too is similarly necessary at times. However, one must know at such times that just as physical violence will drive away others, so will verbal violence. Therefore, one must be careful not to do it with near and dear ones or those one wishes not to be cut off from. In such cases, one must first explore if there are other ways available for self defence. A way to escape possible physical violence is to run away from it. One may use a similar tactic of removing one self from the scene instead of using verbal violence, if possible when dealing with those one wishes to or feels obliged to maintain a relationship with. These include close relatives, friends or those in one’s work environment. Even when dealing with strangers, it is wise to avoid verbal violence because there is the universal mechanism that brings back to us whatever we put into the universe.