Skip to content

on words that wound: the sound of silence

Today, I just wanted to scream. Yell my head off. Intervene.
But I kept silent.

I still don’t know if I did the right thing. It feels like I

The woman in the store that was screaming at the 3-year-old
who was screaming. I wanted to scream right at her to stop. Instead I turned away and
made my way to the front of the store. The screaming continued, it followed me
to the register and out into the parking lot.

By then the girl was crying in earnest. Not throwing a tantrum anymore, just crying. They
walked right up beside my van, and the woman started screaming the most vile
curse words imaginable at the little one.

Still I was silent.

I watched, yes I watched very carefully, because if she had
laid a hand on that girl I would have intervened, called the police, all of it.

But she didn’t, and so I didn’t.

I felt helpless and half sick, and unsure and confused about
what, if any, responsibility I had.

I was worried that she would do far worse to the child. I’m
still worried about that.

But I didn’t DO anything.

My 12-year-old grandson was with me, and he was absolutely
horrified. As we sat there discussing what had happened, the woman and the
child disappeared from sight.

I still feel half sick, and I still don’t know if I should
have done something or if it would have only made matters worse.

What I do know, however, is that words wound. They are
damaging. Tone of voice carries meaning, for better or for worse. This extreme
example has made me remember to watch my words. To check my tone. With the
young people I love, and with the old people I love. The ones in between too.

I saw that little girl’s face. Indeed, she was throwing a
monstrous tantrum in the store. I know, it’s frustrating to manage a situation
like that. I remember. I’m not taking anything away from the absolute fact that
mothering is the hardest thing. In the world.

I remember yelling at my own kids. I wish I hadn’t but I did.
Out of anger, frustration, fear, whatever – I yelled. So I’m not saying anyone
is bad for yelling at their kids. It happens.

And kids throw tantrums. It happens. 

But there is a broad line between discipline and abuse. This was so extreme, so out of control, frankly it was

My heart is heavy now, and I can’t shake those images. My
grandson said it was very depressing. Disturbing. He is right.

I don’t know what would have happened if I would have spoken
up. I’ll never know.

I’ll be praying for that fit-throwing little girl, that she
is safe, that her wounds won’t be too deep, that they will heal. That people
will come into her life and speak love and lightness and acceptance to her.

And I will be a little more careful with my words, I will
think about my tone of voice – not just volume, but tone. Tone of voice can
carry so much weight. It can call you stupid, incompetent, frustrating,
irritating, a liar. When the tone is hurtful, the words sometimes
don’t matter.

And this:

I always have the option to be kind. Even when I’m angry,
frustrated or scared – I can still be kind with my words and my tone of voice.
Even if the words are hard to hear, even if they correct and instruct, I can be

Is that easy? Of course not. But it matters.

I’m still feeling the turmoil of that scene, and I admit
that I am scared for that little girl. I didn’t say anything, didn’t act.

It’s too late now.

But I can carry the lesson with me, and choose to be kind
even when it’s hard. I can.



Please follow and like us:
Published inUncategorized


  1. TF TF

    Thank you for sharing your pain. I, too, will pray for this little girl that she find healing and strength. That she may be surrounded by other adults in her life who will teach her this is not the way. I will also pray for the adult that she might find peace and calm and sense enough to seek help if needed. For both that tomorrow is a better day. For you that you can show yourself grace. I know you feel like you didn't do anything, but prayer is something. Talking to your grandson is something. Speaking out to all of us is something. I had a similar situation years ago that I've never gotten over. A little girl was being belted in a public restroom stall. I was horrified. I was also terrified for my own safety. I didn't have a cell phone at the time and by the time I found an officer, she was gone. I still pray for that little one…and her mother.

    • Angie Clayton Angie Clayton

      Oh thank you. Your words are soothing in my turmoil. And your prayers – they do matter. I'm grateful.

  2. Seeking Serenity Seeking Serenity

    Since TF said it so eloquently, there's not much more to say. It's hard to know whether intervening would have made the situation better or worse. Maybe better 'for the moment', but this mother's heart is not going to be changed in her fit of anger. It's unlikely, in her state, that she would have been receptive to any intervention. You did the best you could at the time, Angie, and now you've doing more than what most people would do by praying, sharing, mentoring your grandson and through self-awareness. I pray this mother's heart will be renewed by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *