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Watching Our Words

By • Feb 24th, 2008 • Category: Lead Article, Lifestyle Choices, Personal Development

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Watch our words All day we function in the realm of words. Do you know that story or rhyme about a little boy that includes these words: “When he was good, he was very, very good and when he was bad he was horrid?” We can say the same about words, can’t we? When they are good, they are very, very good, and when they are bad they are downright destructive.

Few can doubt that words can be a formidable weapon. The childhood ditty, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” gives us a false sense of invincibility, but they ring a negative note. In fact, this might be a truer saying: Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can do irreparable damage. 

Most of us can attest to the experience of being emotionally wounded by someone’s words. Sometimes we hear negative or hurtful words long after they’re said. We agonize over a disrespectful or disparaging remark, turning it over and over in our heads. The other person might say it only once, but the words cling to our minds like a parasite, slowly sucking us dry of every resolve not to let it trouble or cripple us. 

It’s been said that words have no meaning in themselves, but only take on meaning in the context in which they are spoken or heard. We give words meaning when we utter them. Moreover, we give words their power when we clothed them with our tone, our emotions, our body language and our intent.


The words we speak

We are responsible for the words we speak and the consequences that accrue once they leave our lips. At some time or another, we all speak words that hurt. We use words to control, belittle and abuse one another. 

Very often in our attempt to insist on our rights and bolster our pride, we speak words that showcase our insensitivity or our disrespect for others. Then we dismiss they pain. When someone is hurt or feels demoralized by our words, their injured feelings are valid and deserve to be handled like any other wound that needs to be treated and set to heal.

Do you believe that it is your god-given right to say whatsoever is on your mind and verbally confront every actual or perceived enemy regardless of the consequences? Do you have an aversion to letting go of an issue? Is “tit for tat” and “giving them good” your life mantras?

There is such futility in a war of words, with each side demanding to be heard, spewing venom and taking hits that might leave a lifetime of damage.


The words we hear

We also give words meaning and power when we allow them to brutalize our emotions, shatter our hearts, cripple us with fear, whittle away at our confidence, stunt our personal and professional growth, and cause us to doubt our feelings, our abilities and our decisions.

Are we to blame, when someone’s words creep into or blast their way into our lives and wreak havoc with our feelings? Even if we say that we are not responsible for how someone’s words affect us initially, we must accept some responsibility for how we empower those words to linger, fester and erode our ability to live happy and fulfilled lives. 

It’s sad when something we say, with no hurtful intent, deprives someone of a joyful and productive day. Even worse, is when the words we speak are designed to cut through and ravage someone’s feelings.

In a physical war, bombs spew shrapnel in the body and they may never be removed. Scar tissue grows around the wounds inside, scabs form on the outside and a superficial healing takes place. The wounded learns to resume a fairly normal life and function at an acceptable and even comfortable level. In the early days, it takes little to rip the fragile outer scab and reactivate the old wound. Even later, when the scab has done its work and falls off, the area remains tender to the touch. And, for the rest of their lives, if enough pressure is exerted, war survivors feel the faint remains of discomfort and pain.

In the same way, words can leave shrapnel in the soul long after the bomb explodes and the smoke clears. Plus, it can be a long, painful process to remove them. Then, when we think we have rid ourselves of the pieces of sharp, jarring metal, we discover that there are still remnants deep within the tissue of our being.  

We can be free of the lasting effects of hurtful words when we locate the reason why the shrapnel remains and identify the triggers that reactivate them. We may not have the power to avoid the recurrence of those incidents but surely, we can minimize their power to inflict that kind of pain in the future.

We can ease the negative effect of the words we speak, if we take a moment to think before we talk, set aside our own pain and pride and adopt a new mantra of courtesy and respect for others. We must own our responsibility for the words that travel from our lips to someone’s ears.

When you speak, are your words good, bad or downright destructive?  Let us leave the hurtful words behind and strive to speak words that correct without malice, help, encourage, honor and heal.

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One Response »

  1. Good night new zealand tourism,

    Age and bad experiences are notorious for teaching this lesson.


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