I’ve had some vicious words spoken over me.
Like a tapeworm they hatched in my heart, burrowed into the muscle tissue and grew. And reproduced. They made me sick for a long time.
I’m ashamed to admit that I retaliated with more vicious words. If someone tried to destroy me then I should try to destroy them twice as much, as though that would solve anything or heal anyone, or in some way flush the poison from my own soul. It did not.
I think what began to change everything for me was when I really purposed, not just gave lip service, to stop complaining ( http://www.acomplaintfreeworld.org is the place the start). I began to really investigate the power of words. As a wordy girl, this sort of thing was right up my alley anyway. I began learning that words are not just a vehicle of communicating. They are in fact powerful tools that can shape a day, a year, a life. They can be strong foundations or wrecking balls. They can uplift and inspire or slowly poison and destroy. Words matter. How they are used matters. Like it or not, our words will define us to large portion of the people with whom we come in contact. And I get to decide what that definition will be.
After a time I went deeper than just the complaining – the layers of that were many and disgusting. I looked at how I speak both to and about people, about whether what I say here at my keyboard is something I would say to someone’s face. I dismissed the concept of “healthy venting” and recognized it as the verbal vomit of discontent that it is. I examined all the times someone said something and I then made it all about me: why I thought the opposite of them, how I was obviously right. I thought about opinions and tirades and vitriol and passion. I considered the peace of keeping my own counsel and the confidence of holding an opinion without forcing others to hold it too. Though this paragraph is short, I assure you, these thoughts and observations took months, even more than year to arrive here. where I am today. Where is that? Imperfectly walking this life path. I have bad days. I mutter under my breath sometimes, sling that sarcastic slam, engage in dispute rather than accepting diversity. I’ve apologized for my mouth a million times. But, I’m making progress, each day a little lighter and more loving than the last.
I’ve developed some personal word observations/ guidelines for myself, and for you to read should you wish:
- Words really are either life giving or poison. It’s better to limit exposure to poison people. This can be done, and it doesn’t have to be mean or obvious. Step quietly away. The more poisonous the person, the less likely they are to notice.
- It’s ok to disagree, to even strongly disagree and say nothing. It will probably be appreciated.
- It’s ok to walk away from being directly asked your opinion if you know it won’t be respectfully received.
- Encouraging words are profoundly powerful, yet somehow they seem to weigh less than negative words. Therefore, they should be spoken often and enthusiastically.
- Joyful people attract joyful people. It’s ok that some of those joyful people vote differently from you.
- I don’t have to have the last word.
- When in doubt, say something nice. If you can’t do that, shut up.
- Believe that everyone has the best intentions, it spares a lot of drama and misunderstanding.
- Say I’m sorry when you’re wrong. Say it as soon as possible.
- Take every opportunity to tell someone you love them.
I’ve used my words to belittle, gossip, vilify and curse in the past. But I don’t have to be that person if I choose. I want to be seen as joyful and loving, an encourager and life-bringer. I want my words to be worthy of remembering when I am no longer here.
I choose life with my actions and with my words.