There is the old grade school rhyme that says “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”. Then there’s “I’m rubber and you’re glue, whatever you say bounces off of me and sticks to you”. As kids, we pretty much managed to survive any school age social issues using sayings like this. These little sing-song, rhythmic sayings teamed with a little finger snap, eye roll, neck roll, and foot stomp somehow infused us with a cloak of protection to just make it back home in one piece. Because, if the truth be told, whatever was said to make any of us use these types of “clap backs”, devastated us in a way that would only manifest itself later in life.
Juvenile as it may seem now, words are all we had as a first line of defense. We come into the world at birth using our voice to declare our arrival! So, why has there been this effort to make it seem like words are not powerful or shouldn’t bother you when they are negative; that only the positive ones should take root? True enough, we should only grab hold to the lovely things that people say. But what happens when the bitter and vile words linger like cobwebs? Unkind words grow like weeds within the bed of positive flowers in our minds and hearts. Left unattended, the weeds begin to take root and choke the lifeline out of the flowers. Eventually we forget words like beautiful, kind, love, gentleness, patience, and understanding. Suddenly, we find ourselves in a world that does not reflect who we really are.
Growing up, there were numerous occasions that had me defending myself with words. Words were used so many times to embarrass me and make fun of who I was naturally. Without knowing it, I became like those who hurt me. All of a sudden, my goal had become to see if using those same words would give me the power that others seemed to have! The power to shut others up and to command a room. The power to make people cry and rethink even looking my way. In my mind, I was protecting myself and retaining my strength. But in reality, I was becoming a warped image of strength that had been dented like a dropped can of vegetables. But unlike those dented & discounted cans, being dropped had not dented my exterior…words did. Words of others and words that had fallen from my own lips.
At some point, I realized that when I spoke, others listened. But it wasn’t until I met my husband that I realized that my efforts to protect myself was actually damaging others around me. My husband sat me down one night and said “Listen, the way you are with others, you don’t have to be that way with me. Stop treating people like they hurt you before you even get to know them”. WOW!! At that moment, it became clear that my heart was buried under years of hurt, dishonesty, warped self-view, and desperation to preserve what was left of myself. I was killing my future! Have you ever been in a place that requires you to swallow your whole pride and shout “I’m sorry” to heaven? Well I have and the minute that I let go of the guilt and shame that I wrapped myself in like a security blanket, is the moment that I stopped being afraid of being let down and dented again.
There is a scripture in the Bible that says death and life are in the power of the tongue; and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof (Proverbs 18:21). Our mouths hold the power to uplift or teardown. Being wise in knowing how our words affect others can literally save a life! Taking the time to respond to others and not saying the first thing that comes to mind takes strength. I often hear people say that they are just keeping it real or that they can’t lie and keeping it 100…funny thing is, most only say these things when they are being negative. As if it justifies their words. It’s like people saying they are a particular zodiac sign to explain their behavior! It’s all smoke in mirrors. Insecurities will have us saying things that will eventually become our go-to for times when we can no longer identify ourselves because we have become lost in the popular explanation and unfamiliar with our true selves.
Words are like a mass destruction device. Negative words can destroy a positive self-image and positive words can destroy a negative self-image. Words can give power and life to the negative things in our lives and the lives of others. What we say can last throughout generations because we often pass down what we hear and what we say. Choosing to pull the trigger on words cannot be undone…people feel powerful when they see that their words have control or effect on others. But poisonous words infiltrate the mind like a slow leak. Have your words caused wounds that are still bleeding out onto others? Choosing to speak life gives power to the weak and weary as well as the strong! My challenge to us all is to be mindful of how our words effect others around us as well as ourselves. Your words could literally save someone from the brink of destruction. I declare that we as a people will no longer self-destruct, but live a life laced with the language of love, light, and power!
The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit.
Be blessed y’all!