Words are vibrations of consciousness. They are not “just words,” they are energy patterns in motion and have the power to heal and destroy. A word of encouragement can uplift a broken heart, give someone the strength to go on, even save a life at a key moment. Verbal assaults can deeply wound a person’s belief about themselves, leave a scar of self-doubt, limit someone’s willingness to risk. Bullying has even lead to suicide in many cases. In the recklessness of the current generation words designed to malign and destroy have become commonplace. We are sometimes “fish in water” - where it can seem normal to be vicious. Sometimes people will argue, “I”m just being honest,” when they go on the attack - spewing assaults in an effort to be “honest.”
True story: Sister Mary Sullivan taught elementary school kids. When asked about teaching her eyes go misty. “Even with so many bright shining faces in my class Mark Clemons stood out. He was a beam of light; hard working, encouraging of other kids, and always had a kind word. The only trouble I ever had with him was his constant talking during class, but even then he would throw me. Each time I told him to stop talking he would reply with, “Thank you for correcting me sister.” It was such a courteous reply to my scoldings I would fall silent. Still, one day I had had it. Mark was once more muttering to a school mate during my lesson. “Mark,” I said sternly. “If I hear you talk one more time while I’m teaching I’m going to tape your mouth shut!” Ten minutes later another student shouted, “Mark is talking again sister!” Having called him out in the class I had to make good on my threat. I marched to my desk, got the masking tape, went over to Mark, and put a big “X” of tape over his mouth. Going to my desk and already feeling guilty to shut down such a sweet kid, I turned back to see how he was doing. Mark smiled and winked at me. I burst out laughing - as did the whole class. In defeat, I went back and pulled the tape off of his mouth.”
“Six years later I had Mark again for Algebra. He was just as handsome and well tempered as ever. He was struggling in class though. In fact, the whole class seemed to be sliding down hill. Students were not performing and discord among them was common place. Remembering Mark’s sweetness as a child I told the class to take out a piece of paper, list all of their classmates names, and write down the kindest thing they could say of about each one. The class left their lists with me. I brought them home and compiled each person’s list of kind character traits that had been observed by others. “He is the smartest one in the class.” “She is always willing to help me. I couldn’t get through class without her.” “He has quiet strength.” “She is a queen.” “He has the kindest eyes,” and so on. I distributed the lists the next day. They were in dismay. “I never knew anyone thought that about me.” “Did someone really say I was smart?” “I never thought I was good enough in class. Is that what they really think of me?” “I always thought no one liked me. Wow.” “
“Ten years later I was visiting home. My parents picked me up at the airport. On the way home my dad cleared his throat. “Umm, Mary, I have to tell you something. Do you remember your student Mark Clemons?” “Oh, yes, did he call you?” I asked eagerly. “Well, no. His parents called me. I’m sorry to tell you, Mark was killed in Vietnam. The funeral is next week. It would mean a lot to them if you went.” I fell into a numb grief.”
She goes on, “The funeral was full of sobbing, many of Mark’s classmates showed up. After the funeral Mark’s brother pulled me aside and said, I think you might know what this is. It was found on Mark when he died in combat. Mark’s brother handed me a folded piece of paper, the one I had written all the beautiful qualities Mark’s classmates had seen in him. I collapsed into tears. Mark’s classmate’s gasped at the site of the paper. John, said, “Oh my God. I have mine in the top drawer of my desk at home. Dave said, “My wife put mine in our wedding album.” Sue, a third classmate slowly pulled a piece of paper out of her purse. “I always have mine on me.””
Whether it’s affirmations, monitoring self-talk (inner child. work), learning to mirror others, using “I” statements, holding others as equals in conflict, giving up being “right”, or risking telling others we love them, being a conscious human being with our words takes work.
What words are you sharing with others? Can you hold yourself when your tongue wants to lash out? Can your need to confront someone be tempered in a way that the other person can hear you? Can you risk being more giving, blessing the person in front of you with your words?
Click on the picture below to see Mohammed (which means praised or praiseworthy) Qahtani talk about The Power of Words: