Sometimes people do cruel things and when called on it, they whisper platitudes. They repeat positive mantras that they imagine make them seem calm and mature, when in fact the contrast between their words and their behaviour emphasizes even more how absurd they are.
How confusing for children who hear “I love you” while being emotionally abused. Picture the wife-beater cuddling his broken wife and telling her that he’s sorry and won’t do it again. Of course, history shows time and time again how those words mean nothing. The behaviour is repeated again and again. An apology is nothing if the behaviour continues. “I love you” is not an excuse to destroy someone. “I respect you” is not an excuse to steal a business. “I admire you” is not a reason to spread vicious rumours. It’s all about power and manipulation.
I believe that words have power. We can set things into being when we write them down. I have seen this in my own life. Yet, for those whose words are meaningless, somehow the power has been removed. I find this confusing. You would expect that repeating “I’m sorry” or the “I love you” would make it true eventually. Perhaps the problem is that the speaker doesn’t actually internalize the words. If the apology doesn’t come from a gut-wrenching awareness that makes change imperative, is the person really sorry? Doesn’t “I’m sorry” really mean “I won’t do it again?” If the “I love you” doesn’t come from a heart that wants only the best for the other person at whatever the personal cost, is it genuine?
I keep wondering if repeating the mantra can bring the change. I have been told that these types of manipulation can be related to borderline personality disorder. These people (usually women) use words (and possibly cutting and suicide attempts ) to manipulate others, to attempt to weaken and destroy. They can’t understand real connection and affection. They don’t know what love and respect actually look like, so they can’t respond in appropriate ways with other people. Their words don’t fit their actions. They believe they are entitled to everything they see, and don’t believe others have any right to have another perspective of their actions.
Surely that can’t explain everyone, though. Why can’t people see the contrast between their sweet words and the brutality of their actions? Is it narcisism. ignorance, or denial? Sneaking around, twisting words, lying. None of those behaviours make you friends of worth. Eventually people figure out who you really are.
When we’re faced with such people, what do we do as watchers? When we listen to someone who feels the manipulation and doesn’t know how to respond, do we step in? Do we try to show the perpetrator the reality they’re ignoring? Draw their attention to their erroneous impressions? Even if we face them down, what are the chances that they will actually accept the information and change their behaviour? I’m thinking that for most people, ignorance is bliss. I suspect they imagine they are existing with impunity because no one has observed the dichotomy of their lives. Therefore, they will continue in their ignorance, while they wonder why people stop interacting with them and their relationships fall apart. At first glance, people might be attracted to the façade, but it won’t be long before they realise the shallow reality and break the relationship. After all, once people see how dishonourable someone is, they usually don’t stick around for long.
Like the old adage that you can give someone enough rope to hang himself with, eventually people watching will see that the words and actions don’t co-exist. The weakness becomes obvious to all. When your smile doesn’t reach your eyes and your nervousness shows everyone that even you know you’re lying, truth will show itself.
Words will be the weapons of their self-destruction.