I am reading The Girl who Kicked the Hornet's Nest (about a year after reading the first two books) and I was struck by an image in the beginning.
A girl (Lisbeth Salander) has been shot in the head, but she is still alive. The bullet is lodged in her brain and the surgeon needs to remove it. He realizes quickly that the bullet can be removed with little trouble (relatively speaking). However, all around the entry wound, there are tiny shards of bone embedded in the brain matter. Some of the shards are actually microscopic. He has to remove each of them. One at a time (with the world's smallest pair of tweezers, I'm sure), he extracts each sliver of bone.
Isn't that often the case with life? We reach the end, not because of the bullet, but because of the shards it left it its wake. I am reminded of my aunt who died not from her first bout of cancer and not from her second bout of cancer but from residual damage caused by her cancer treatments. However, in this instance, I am thinking more metaphorically.
Someone says something hurtful to us. They apologize for the words, and we move on, but everything is not okay. In the days and weeks (or even just seconds) after the hurtful thing was spoken, our mind started reeling. It sorted through past issues with the person talking. It pulled up every incident that might be considered the least bit negative. It pulled up positive happenings and washed them over with a coat of distrust. Our minds remember other people who have said similar things about us. Perhaps my mother once complained about the very thing this person is now complaining about.
The word can be taken back, but the entry wound remains. There are tiny shards of history and shattered trust. The hard part isn't forgiving the hasty insult. The hard part is continuing to search out the residual damage and repair it, bit by bit. Years and years may pass and then, out of the blue, another sliver is brought to the surface. It takes a microscope focused directly on our life to find it, but eventually we do find it, and then we must remove it.
Our actions are bullets, and they cause a lot more pain that can ever be accurately measured or atoned for.
Be careful, people. Please, please, please, be careful.