Remember the old grade school chant, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me?” Well if that isn’t the biggest load of crap I’ve ever heard, I don’t know what is!
I really do believe that people do not understand the impact that their words have on others. Whether it’s people you’re in romantic relationships with, your children, friends, or even strangers. Words have incredible power. They can be an amazing source of strength and uplifting, but they can conversely be a weapon of destruction. The brutal truth about using this weapon is that it’s nearly impossible to undo the damage they have done, those wounds do not resolve quickly or easily.
I think back on previous romantic relationships and cringe at some of the daggers that have headed my way. Being called stupid, worthless, and undeserving of their love and attention. I recall a time that I was being driven to the airport for a business trip and my significant other told me, “I hope your plane crashes.” I mean, really?! Whether said and inferred repeatedly with similar statements and actions, or said in moments of anger, these things stick. Other’s don’t always know another’s greatest fears and insecurities, but it seems that our minds have this uncanny ability to take any harsh words and find a way to feed them. They can really pile up and manifest into baggage and life struggles, both in the here and now and down the road.
My fiance’ can attest to the phenomenon of some of that baggage. Now, in a healthy and loving relationship, I can sometimes hear those words and sentiments still rolling around in my head. I come up with the craziest notions about situations, questioning some of his kindest words for hidden meaning. It’s crazy really, when I sit down and logically think about the real words spoken to me now and the destructive meanings I somehow self-associate to them, I am unintentionally sabotaging the most positive and beautiful things my guy is telling me.
This applies in all sorts of scenarios. Children who hear a parent or loved one continually tell them they don’t live up to some standard. Friends who hear other friends belittle them or say harsh words to them for speaking their truth. The random passerby on the street who is shouted at or ridiculed for the way they look, or some other rude comment. Sadly, it all sticks.
On the flip side, the same can happen with positive remarks, words of affirmation, and kindness. When I’m at work, I’m constantly giving my team compliments. I give them personal feedback on things they’ve done really well. I build them up and appreciate their talents. Even the small things, like an excellent remark in a meeting, a positive attitude in a difficult or stressful situation, sending me information to be proactive, etc. You know what, these guys are awesome, they deserve to hear it! This builds confidence, keeps morale high, and the buzz is infections… suddenly everyone wants these guys on their team!
Our children hear us say good job, well done, it’s okay to have a bad day, but let’s make tomorrow better, your best effort is all I need, and I love you. They begin to feel capable and confident. They aren’t afraid to try new things or to fail because your love and approval of them are not conditional and they know it deep down in their little souls!
Here’s the one that I personally endeavor to do better at, giving positive feedback and encouragement to my significant other. Folks, he’s amazing. I’ll be the first to admit that when someone is always kind, giving, loving, and willing to go out of their way for you at a moments notice it can be easy to expect it and become less gracious and appreciative, at least in terms of spoken words. These are the people in our lives that are in the trenches with us. They live the good, the bad, and the ugly of us, right along side us. Tell them how great that is! Think about how good it feels to you when your babe says “thank you,” “you did a really good job on that,” or “I can’t tell you how much I appreciate that.” We all want to hear positive things about ourselves, especially in this critical world we live in.
So friends, make it your mission to hand out some positive and kind words each day. Endeavor to live in a world where words are a weapon of love and betterment. Make someone’s day, build up your loved ones so that their baggage is light and they can fearlessly and securely face their futures.
We can do this!