Deadlier Than Guns

I’d barely finished moving into in my first apartment when through the paper-thin walls I could hear angry female words of reproach and mocking. I muffled the noise by turning up the stereo. Yet I wondered about my sharp-tongued neighbor—and the one on the receiving end.

A couple weekends later, when I’d hoped to sleep in, I was awakened by a crash. I could tell something broke—but the words that followed were worse. “You’re a complete idiot!” she screamed with her trademark venom. I could hear the sound of feet running and a younger voice saying, “Sorry, sorry, sorry!” Her tirade was more than mean-spirited; it was cruel. I felt awful.

Later, I was outside watering the plants by my front door when my neighbors emerged from their apartment. The woman looked at me briefly, unsmiling and holding the hand of a young boy—probably five or so. 

His dark eyes locked onto mine. Was he silently pleading with me? His mom jerked him forward, but as he walked away he turned and looked at me with such bleak eyes. A month later they moved away, but I will never forget what I heard and how those words must have made that boy feel.

Words. They are typically the first weapons used against us. As a child I remember a few tongue-lashings. And I delivered a few regrettable ones as a mom. Emotions erupt and hot words flow fast. But sometimes it’s far, far worse, even sinister. 

Kids can learn to hate by living with angry, bitter, and emotionally abusive people. Sometimes they’re taught to hate by generational dysfunction creating warped outlooks and deadened souls. Sometimes those twisted souls become mentally deranged.

I scanned a list of the more recent American mass shootings—all horrific and grievous. Per usual, a psycho pulled the trigger— a killer that had been fed a steady diet of evil words—either by parents or his cultural milieu. All of them were killers who'd been steeped in hatred with racist, religious, or whatever bigotry. But it all began with words.

After a mass shooting, the talk always turns to stricter gun control. But the conversation really needs to be about our family structure, our society, and our words. 

It must begin there, because words kill a person’s soul before he kills anything else. And a dead soul doesn’t need a gun to kill—all it takes is a killer’s heart and willing hands.

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