If you don't have anything nice to say then don't say anything at all."
How often have you heard that one? I used to hear it quite often in my house, especially when my siblings and I would "go at it." Words were our weapon of choice, and we knew exactly how to use them. Thank goodness for maturity and growth and an occasional tear- jerking pop from our mother. OK, so it was more than occasional, but who's counting? The point is that when were children, we acted as children sometimes do, cruel and immature.
Sometimes I sit and think back on those days, and I can hardly believe how cruel we were to one another. While we acted pretty tough declaring the mantra "sticks and stones...but words will never hurt..." I knew that those words, as trivial as they were, carried power. They did hurt. I was always the most sensitive one too. I knew that, unbeknown to my siblings, I was becoming more and more self conscious about certain things growing up. My defense was to "fire" back to try and return the favor, so to speak, but truthfully in the end, nobody won. Being hurtful to one another was never of any benefit to us. It never really even made us feel better.
We would somehow make amends shortly after our "word battle." But thinking back over those days as an adult used to cause some regret. Now, though, I understand that rather than regret, I can be at peace in knowing that I learned a tremendous lesson about words. That is that words are power, however destructive, however uplifting, words are power.
What have you been saying lately?
It is often not difficult to figure out what people have been saying either to themselves or to others around them, because there is evidence. Gossipy folks are usually talking about other people's matters, so they stir up strife in their environments. Mean-spirited folks often speak of hate and/or envy and so they appear as unhappy souls. "Never having enough folks" are always talking about not having enough, so they never do. Sick and depressed folks talk about their ailments and deteriorating circumstances to anyone who will listen ... no wonder there is no change in their conditions.
Likewise, those who speak words that edify others create a harmonious environment. Those who speak words of self-love and equality are happier and more fulfilled. Those who speak words of gratitude for the things that they have, and speak words of victory about their circumstances live healthier and more abundant lives.
Not only can words hurt and tear down others, they can hurt and tear you down as well.
When my siblings and I were kids, we said some hurtful things to one another and never let on to the fact that perhaps our feelings had been bruised a bit. Nonetheless, we were hurting one another's spirits and weakening one another's confidence -- with words.
Be careful not to underestimate the power of words. Be mindful of the words that leave your mouth, because you may never know the destruction or the edification they will cause in someone else's life.
Contact columnist LaTonya Dunn at firstname.lastname@example.org.