“Just walk away…” is often the advice parents give children when they are provoked. As a child, most of us are able to walk away and not get into a fight. Fighting with another child involves being taken to the pricipal’s office, a phone call to a parent, or possible suspension. Given the reprecussions, most children will not engage. When you are an adult, however, it’s often a different story.
As we grow older, we tend to forget the “walk away” rule. Why? We simply grow more adept linguistically. Adults discover the subtleties of sarcasm, witty- yet succinct- remarks, and different ways to get our point across. Adults don’t always walk away… many are more prone to engage. And while it may not be a physical fight such as in the play yard, the discussion can leave more long-lasting scars.
“Sticks and Stones…”
While it’s a popular child’s saying, words can and will hurt me. Physical fights heal and are usually quickly over. Have you ever seen two children fight? Most of the time they are fiercely fighting, and then the next moment, all is forgotten. They are friends again.
Adults usually avoid physical fights- often because they don’t want to be convicted of assault. Yet if our words were punches, our victims would be almost dead in many cases. And many are… Some internalize what is being said causing deep wounds and crushing their spirit.
This is why emotional abuse is so deadly.
Arguments between adults are often more deadly. We use words to express our dissatisfaction. Often, if we are angry enough, it can come out as a character assassination. We aren’t opposing what the person did, anymore. We begin to persecute who they are (or who we perceive them to be). Out come all the labels, and supporting documents to prove they fit this mold. They have to change. They have to apologize.
This is when things turn toxic. It’s one thing to express how you feel about a given situation. It is completely another to criticize and demean another human being. We should never attack a person’s character. This is where we do the most damage.
It’s not in the workplace that we usually see it- it’s at home. Work we have restraint. We don’t want to lose our job, position, status, or money. Oh no… but at home/friends, it’s a different story.
Why is that?
Because these people are familiar. With our spouses and children, it never crosses our mind that they would leave. They promised to be in it for the long haul. But nowhere in your wedding vows did you say that you would tolerate abuse. You said that you would “love, honor, and cherish” each other. Yet some spouses “yell, criticize, and belittle” the other.
It’s a far cry from God’s design which teaches us to “fight fair“.
So what do you do when things get too heated?
Alexis Wohler discusses resurrecting our parent’s advice. She talks about how and when to effectively walk away. It’s not a walk away in the sense of a power/control move. Walking away, in this sense, is a way of collecting your thoughts, calming down, and not escalating a situation.
It is protecting yourself from the harm of verbal abuse or character assassinations. It is returning to a discussion with a clear head for the purpose of a solution- not a vent.
Interested in learning more about how and why the walk away can be so effective? Learn more in our August issue coming out on July 27, 2020.