Words have the power to engender trust, ignite passion, heal a broken heart and/or cause a broken heart. They can help people rise or contribute to a person’s fall. They can help save relationships or end them. They even have the power to start wars or end wars—in the home and in the world at large.
In our homes we often minimize their impact. We tell our loved one that we were just mad when we said what we did (“It didn’t mean anything.”). We tell our spouse to stop being so sensitive when s/he gets angry because we snapped. We make promises to our friend and when we fail to carry them out, we think it’s no big deal (“S/he will understand.”). At work, we make passive-aggressive comments to our co-worker because we’re tired of him/her not getting their stuff done on time. When they call us out on our comments, we laugh them off and say we didn’t mean anything by it (“We were just a bit annoyed.”). When our neighbor shares a personal hardship, we say nothing and run off to do our errands, leaving them to sit alone with their pain. In so many ways, on so many levels, we minimize the impact of words—those we speak (or fail to speak) and those spoken (or not spoken) to us.
Here’s the thing about words, though:
• Words spoken in anger often cut deep, even if the recipient pretends they don’t.
• “Taking back” words that were spoken will seldom erase the imprint they left.
• Words unspoken can be felt long after the silence has passed.
• The empty space left by your silence can seldom be filled up with words you later choose to speak.
• Words have the power to inspire average human beings to create extraordinary results.
• Words are the window to some of our deepest connections; the lack of them can be the window to painful loneliness.
Words have power. They impact lives—for better or worse. When we call our loved one an insulting name, we harm that relationship. When we tell our child s/he is lazy, we imprint a story in their psyche that does damage. When we condemn a group of people, we spread hate. When our leaders attack other leaders, they put our nation at risk. Words matter—everywhere.
Challenge: Pay attention to the words you speak and those you silence. Be mindful of using your words to help others rise, not fall. Be thoughtful, honest and compassionate with yourself and others in the way you speak. Notice what happens as a result—within you and with those around you.