Words are fascinating little things.
They can be like fertiliser in so much as they can nourish, inspire, rally, stir, encourage. Another’s words can tell us we are loved, beautiful, capable, worthy. They can enrich and enlarge our hearts. They can give us the confidence to pursue our dreams, to believe in ourselves, to feel good about who we are.
Or they can be like poison.
They can fire out of our mouths like toxic bullets, tearing shreds off the person on the receiving end. These kinds of words have the power to slap and punch without any physical element. These kinds of words devalue and diminish and reduce the other, leaving them bruised and cut, albeit invisible to the human eye.
I was reading an essay recently by a Christian writer called Lizzy Milani on the power of words. She puts it this way:
- “The economy of words is such that we don’t pay for them until after we use them. And because of this many of us don’t pay before we spend…We spend words so easily, often thoughtlessly, without wondering how they’ll ripple out after they drop into the hearts and minds of those who hear them.”
She makes the point that everything both good and evil in this world begins with words. The most evil of regimes begins with the rhetoric of hate and propaganda long before it translates into violence and war.
As a therapist I obviously work with people who are struggling with certain life issues. And I have to say, most of the time when we start to explore the underlying reasons why that person is feeling anxious or depressed, guess what we find? That’s right. Words. But not the good kind. We find the ugly kind.
We find that somewhere along the line this person has been told they are worthless, or stupid, or a failure. And like weeds, these words have made a home in this person’s psyche, negatively impacting on their ability to feel good about themselves, to achieve in the world or to have fulfilling relationships.
I worked with a client once who had been the result of an unplanned pregnancy, but rather than her mother welcoming her into the world anyway, she repeatedly told her daughter that she was a mistake and that she was unwanted.
Talk about ouch! This mother, because of her own inability to cope with her situation spoke ugly words, not life-giving words into the heart of her daughter. Honestly, the damage was extensive and our therapy together became about weeding out the poison that had been spoken over her.
In a sense we were re-cultivating the soil.
But I see that same story in different packaging over and over again. The power of words.
Do our words wear boxing gloves, or do they carry a sweet fragrance?
When we are pushed to our limits, do we blurt out words that are hurtful, that we don’t really mean, but there they go.. straight into the hearts of they people we say we love?
Or do we pause, calm down and address the issue with words that are not going to tear shreds?
It’s a challenge I think we all face every day. I think we can all relate to the pain of being on the receiving end of ugly words.
And for that reason that I think we can all be mindful of how we use our own words.
We can’t change the world but we can change our world. We can take responsibility for what we send out of our own mouth.
We won’t get it right all the time, but it is a challenge worthy of our constant attention.
So if we have the power to choose our words – which we do – here’s to being fertiliser, not poison!
References: Lizzy Milani, PocketFuel www.pktfuel.com
-Norwest Counselling offers counselling for residents of Kellyville and surrounding suburbs.