Have you ever heard someone say a questionable comment to another person (i.e. friend, sibling, family member, coworker), and then followed it up with a chuckle and a "I'm just kidding"? Does ending the statement with that EVER cancel out the hurt and pain of what was said?
No. No, it does not. Because more often than not, the person was expressing his/her viewpoints in a passive aggressive manner, and wasn't truly joking. The "I'm just kidding" part is similar to giving someone a half-hearted smile and a pat on the back after having beaten him/her up. If anything, saying "I'm just kidding" at the end does nothing more than to rob the other person of being able to respond authentically, whether it's becoming sad, angry, hurt, etc. How? Because if the other person does respond by becoming sad or angry, their feelings can be easily dismissed with a "I was just joking! Can't you take a joke?" Which then only invalidates the person's feelings even more.
Over time, I noticed that "I'm just kidding" is sometimes replaced by starting or ending a comment/statement with "because I love you." Rather than using that statement to start or conclude why an individual loves someone, people are oftentimes using it to excuse a hurtful comment instead. How can this be?! Some examples, perhaps? "You're getting fat. You need to lose some weight. I'm only telling you this because I love you." Or how about, "Because I love you, I'm going to tell you this. You know... You'd be a lot prettier if you had plastic surgery for/on your [name body part]." Since when did "because I love you" come to mean "I'm telling you something that's hurtful and might make you angry or sad, but you can't get mad at me or feel hurt because I said it to you, because it's coming from a place of 'love' and good intention." Similarly to "I'm just kidding," it robs the recipient of the hurtful message the opportunity to respond authentically and to express their feelings as a result of hearing the message.
No matter how you start or end a negative or judgmental comment, the content will still elicit feelings of pain, sadness, and/or anger. It will still impact your relationship with that person in ways you may not be able to foresee. Just remember, words once said cannot ever be taken back, especially in the heat of anger or pain to those we love (i.e. our children, spouses, family members, friends).
As children, many of us were told, "Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me." However, that could not be any further from the truth. A new version has come out, and it goes something like this, "Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will forever hurt me." While bruises and physical scars may fade, the words we say can have everlasting impact in the minds of others, especially in the minds of little ones, because our voices can eventually become their internal voices.
So, choose your words wisely, because you never know who's listening intently, when they choose to listen, and just how long they'll remember the words you utter.
How can you break the cycle of saying hurtful things to yourself and others when it may be something that has been entrenched in you since childhood? It won't be easy, and it won't be quick. But with some help and support of loving individuals (e.g. family members, friends, coworkers, therapist), as well as internal exploration, it can definitely be done with time, effort, and patience!
“Think twice before you speak, because your words and influence will plant the seed of either success or failure in the mind of another.” – Napoleon Hill