Death By A Thousand Paper Cuts
There are a myriad of ways for people to meet their demise. The ancient Chinese practice of torturing people to death by small, continuous cuts all over their body has to be one of the most painful and mentally tormenting of them all. The slow process of cutting made the victim linger until their inevitable death. It could last for hours, days or even weeks. This form of torture has been used in war time on prisoners of war. Known as “Death By A Thousand Cuts” the phrase has morphed into an American idiom and popularized as “Death By A Thousand Paper Cuts” meaning a series of small, bad but non-fatal occurrences that result in an inevitable slow but painful ruin.
Have you ever had a bad day? It is usually not because of one, big traumatic event but a series of small, seemingly insignificant annoyances one after the other that make you yearn for tomorrow to come. A broken relationship is often the result of many small problems that individually in and of themselves wouldn’t cause a break. Problems at work? The same thing. Death by a thousand paper cuts. One disappointment after the other. One sarcastic remark after the other. One criticism, put down, humiliation, loss…One broken promise followed by another and then another and then another. What didn’t seem like a big deal at first becomes intolerable and too painful to bear.
In our Emotionally Heathy Relationship Course we teach a skill called “Exploring The Iceberg.” It teaches us to become aware of and share some of those things that are hidden beneath our emotional surface. The thousand paper cuts that make us angry, the thousand paper cuts that cause us sadness and hurt, the thousand paper cuts that create fear and anxiety. There may be some major incidents that impact us, traumatic and dramatic life events that shape the course of our lives. But there are also a thousand paper cuts in there…one cut after another that, if not addressed, result in a kind of death.
But as important as it is that we become self aware of these areas and how they impact our lives (and it is very important that we do) it is equally important that we are aware or our actions and if we are the ones who are causing the cuts. Are we cutting others with our words, our attitudes, our verbal and non-verbal communication? Are we cutting others slowly but with a series of deliberate, seemingly non-fatal slashes, one after the other day in and day out until something dies…until a spirit is crushed…until a relationship is broken? Cutting can go both ways and we are responsible for making sure we are not cutting with our attitudes, our actions or our words.
Paul encourages us in the 13th chapter of his epistle to the Romans:
8 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.
9 The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
10 Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
Paper is not a weapon. I never think of paper as something that can cause me harm. Until I get a paper cut. Then I realize the pain that it can cause and how awful the slow death by a thousand paper cuts can be.
What do you think? How does it make you feel?