People who grow up in our society learn quickly to hide their real weaknesses, the things that would break them if found and exploited by a malicious person. When you first meet somebody, all you know about them is what they broadcast to the world. Things that they either consciously display, are unable to hide, or don't know that they're showing. In school, before the defenses have fully set in and the callouses have been built up, these obvious properties can still be taken advantage of, and cause deep pain in the hands of the cruel.

Upon reaching maturity, all of the powerful emotional damage vectors go beneath the surface. You need a lot more than "faggot" or "fatass" to wound a mature person. Instead, it takes knowing who they are, and which of their past failures hurt the most. It takes finding the one part of their psyche that they can't bear to have fun made of. It takes being able to see the world through their eyes, and know their thoughts in your mind. In short, it takes becoming close to them.

What's more, people stop expecting pain when it's been absent for a long time. When you know that the things that hurt you in high school no longer hurt at all, you tend to think that you're somehow above being hurt at all by the words of others -- that you've outgrown placing such value on what others think. So when it happens, when somebody says words that crush you alive, part of your response is surprise that it could even happen at all. The fact that it happened at the hand of somebody close -- who is the only person who could have done it anyway -- makes the surprise even more vivid.

The urge to destroy something beautiful (which we all get sometimes, don't we?) is so much more powerful and dangerous in adults than in kids, for this reason. Because the destroyer is somebody you know and trust (and love?), and the words are crafted so precisely to burn your soul, the damage can be profound. That's why I've always had to concentrate on the fact that people are not my personal playthings, because I know that if I forgot it in anger and spoke the words that I know would affect them, they might never be the same, and I would doubtless lose them forever. I would feel vindicated with wrathful anger for all of thirty seconds, and then I would be crushed with guilt for possibly the rest of my life.

I don't know if this is strictly true. The problem is that as you get closer to someone (and learn what would really hurt them), you also tend to care for them more. This caring has the effect that by the time you know enough to truly devastate someone, you can't imagine doing it. One story I read expressed it this way: Everyone has three knots (character flaws / weaknesses). To cast a hex on someone you need to know two of there knots, so your spell can have power over them. However, if you know all three of their knots, you see them as the weak human that they are and either feel sorry for them or love them, making it impossible for you to hex them. In the end it ends up being a tradeoff, which serves as protection for our psyches. We try to manage our relationships so that power only goes to people who can be trusted with it. People get hurt when the system breaks down, either from emotional overload (I'm really mad at you and don't care how much I hurt you.)or because someone has gotten close enough to hurt without learning how to care. (I have seen this happen to a couple of my friends; it is heartrending to have to watch.)

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