I was jolted the other day when I was out for an afternoon walk with my wife and children. As we were walking through the neighbourhood on a bright and beautiful day flooded with sunlight, we passed by a local playground for small children. Strolling along the sidewalk beside the park, it was peaceful to hear the happy sounds of children’s laughter and fun, and so it was a shock when it was interrupted by the shrill pitch of a man yelling: “You’re such a dough-head. You’re always such a dough-head. Come on, let’s go.”
Concerned for the safety of the children present in the park, I slowed our walk so that I could find out what this man’s verbal pollution was all about. It turns out he was yelling at his daughter, who looked to be about 5 years old, about a doctor’s appointment they were apparently late for. He was trying to get his daughter’s attention so that they could get to this meeting on time.
Then, we watched the little girl leave the swing set she was on, and run hurriedly to her father. As she did, she grabbed the hand of her little sister, so they could leave together. The smaller sister began to cry, upset that she had to leave the park. A gentle conflict ensued as the big sister tried to use her under-developed maternal instincts to coax her smaller sibling to come along.
[quote float=”left”]your words, your energy, your tone, and your spirit have power [/quote] It was almost as though this small act of familial care triggered another explosion of negative energy and damaging words from the dad. Again, the father let his presence be felt with verbal abuse, heard and witnessed by all: “You’re such a dough-head. You’re always such a dough-head. Come on, let’s go. You don’t need to bring your sister and now look, you just made her cry. You always do this! Your sister is supposed to stay here while we go to the doctor. Why do you always act like such a dough-head?” Before you knew it, the dad and daughter hopped into an idling mini-van and sped off.
Now, I’m not sure exactly what a “dough-head” is, but based on the level of toxicity and venom in his tone of speech, it can’t be good. When I think about parental affection and empowering our children, the phrase “dough-head”, along with criticism for caring for your smaller sister, anger, blame and shame are not in the manual. Parents should empower and nurture us, rather than disempower and cripple us, with their words and tones.
A key principle in life navigation is that your words, your energy, your tone, and your spirit have power. Our words are our greatest tool. Our words are an instrument in our hands, and we can use them with great skill and artfulness to heal those who are wounded, support those who are struggling, guide those who are confused, encourage those who are timid, and inspire those who are apathetic. However, when we use our words with recklessness or ignorance, they can lay heavy burdens, impose significant barriers and obstacles, and disempower and disable completely. The words that we speak not only ring in the ears of those who hear them in the moment, but they echo into eternity in real world terms of self-perceptions, thought processes, choices, behaviours, and all the outcomes that follow. We need to be careful with the words we speak, and the words we hear.
The Power Of Your Words…
Your words are a ripple [quote float=”right”]A single word may last but a second, but its impact can ripple for a lifetime.[/quote]
A single word may last but a second, but its impact can ripple for a lifetime. A paragraph can last for a minute, but its impact can echo on into eternity.
Words have power. Words can light a fire in our minds, they can calm a storm in our hearts, they can pull tears from our eyes, and they can inspire energy and passion in our soul. Words can ripple a message of acceptance and affirmation, healing and hope, or they can ripple a message of rejection and exclusion, unforgiveness and judgment. The words we speak, and the words we hear powerfully ripple and set the course for our lives.
Your words are a seed
An irreversible principle of life is that the seeds that we plant become the harvest that we reap. When we want to see how a child will turn out, we simply need to look at the words that are sown (or not sown) as seeds into their lives. When we want to see the outcome of a person we are leading or developing, assess the words that are being shared with them, through us and through others.
Robert Louis Stevenson said this: “Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds that you plant.” Our words are the seed we probably sow the most, so paying careful attention to our words is critical.
Your words are energy
I remember it like it was yesterday. With her green lipstick, and green nail polish, the principal of my elementary school made quite an impression on the mind of this 7-year old boy. My principal was quite upset with me, because I was not a model student and ended up in her office every single day, mostly for fighting with other children. She looked me in the eye, and said, “Abe, you are a bad child. One day, you will end up in prison.” Of course, I remember the words themselves, but even more deeply, I remember the energy the words projected. It was the energy of negativity, anger, resentment, and frustration. It was the energy of bitterness and judgment. I felt the energy as I heard the words, and I am so grateful they did not come true.
[quote float=”left”] I felt the energy as I heard the words, and I am so grateful they did not come true.[/quote] When we speak, we project energy. It is not just our grammar or sentence composition that makes an impression, or the semantics of our language. It is the energy itself, projected through the vehicle of our spoken words. When Martin Luther King, Jr., spoke, the energy was peaceful revolution and hopeful change. When Winston Churchill spoke, the energy was courage in the face of fear, and defiance in the face of tyranny. When you speak, what energy is projected? What energy flows? The words we speak, and the words we hear project potent energy.
Your words are programming
I remember hearing of a life coaching client whose parents consistently told him while he was growing up that there was more brains in the concrete sidewalk in the family backyard than he had in his head. Think about the impact of hearing that from your parents, for the whole of your life. Think about what this did to his self-concept, sense of potential, and ability to navigate obstacles and barriers. Think of the impact this lethal language had on his choice of partner, friends, education and career.
Part of the coaching process, and the personal growth journey, is asking this ever-relevant question: What programming was installed as an operating system on your hard drive? And what impact did that programming have, in terms of your choices, opportunities, potential, and capacity? From your early formative years, what impact did the words you heard consistently have on the programming of your beliefs, thoughts, and feelings? And as you communicate with others, both with words and without words, what programming are you offering them?
Your words are a thread
A tapestry is a piece of thick textile fabric with pictures or designs formed by weaving together colored threads. It is also often used in reference to an intricate combination of things or sequence of events. A tapestry can be beautiful and warm and colorful, or it can be of poor quality and color, based on the skill of the artisan. In the same way, with every word we hear, and every word we speak, is a thread that ultimately helps to form a tapestry of beliefs, thoughts and feelings. When the words we speak, and the words we hear, are life-giving and positive, nurturing and hopeful, we are weaving a beautiful tapestry of empowerment and possibility. When the words we speak, and the words we hear, are unhealthy and negative, they weave together a tapestry of low self-esteem, low worth, and low possibilities.
Constantly speak life. The tongue has the power of life and death. We literally create things and bring life with what we say. Or, we can bring death!
- Your words bring healing if you are wise [quote float=”right”]Let’s be careful to speak life, and to only allow ourselves to hear words that give life.[/quote]
- Your words pierce like a sword if you are reckless
- Learn what to say & how to say it
- Learn how to say hard truths well
- When you speak life it is:
The words we speak, and the words we hear have power. I remember that day, flooded with light, on a walk with my family. I think often about the impact on a little girl of the words of her father. “You’re such a dough-head. You’re always such a dough-head….” The words we speak, and the words we hear, have a powerful ripple effect. The words we speak, and the words we hear, act as seeds bearing a harvest, with an energy and vitality of their own. The words we speak, and the words we hear, are programming that conditions beliefs, thoughts, and feelings, ultimately weaving a tapestry of our overall mental and emotional health. Let’s be careful to speak life, and to only allow ourselves to hear words that give life. Our lives depend on it.