In the early 90’s my dad bought a motorcycle.
I remember the day he brought it home, I was about 8 or 9 – he came riding up into the driveway with a new leather jacket and a helmet. I was so excited, it was like my dad was Evil Knievel. I begged him to take me for a ride, “Please dad please!” I cried over and over again as he started it up and revved the motor. He was preparing to take it for a spin and I was adamant that he take me with him – but he wouldn’t. So I did the only sensible thing and shouted a curse at him. No not a curse word, I didn’t swear, but the other kind of curse – I wished him ill will. I looked him straight in the eyes and screamed “I hope you crash!” After all, he had hurt me by not allowing me to ride on his motorcycle so I felt I needed to hurt him by saying something mean and intimidating.
He didn’t say anything in response. He drove away looking a bit disappointed in me… and I never saw him again… at least, I was convinced I wouldn’t. I sat in my room panicking and playing out scenarios in my head where I saw my dad cruising around a curve, hitting some gravel and skidding over the edge of a cliff. It always ended with a ridiculous explosion.
My dad actually did come home later that day, thankfully. He was unharmed. But what if he hadn’t? What if he had actually crashed and I never saw him again? My own words would probably have haunted me for the rest of my life.
And that’s what this post is about, the weight of our words – the dangers of the tongue.
When we speak, we have the power to build up or tear down; to create or destroy; to uplift or condemn – and we have to live with the things we say. As children we all learned a goofy little rhyme – “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” The irony is that abusive words usually hurt worse than sticks and stones. When misused, words can actually tear people to shreds, crush their spirits and sometimes even destroy lives.
I want you to try something now. I want you to think back throughout your life and remember all the mean and cruel things people have said to you. The jabs, the insults, the names, the taunts.
Now think back to all the compliments people have given you throughout your life. The cheers, the praises, the encouragement.
Which category were you able to think of more examples in? If you’re like most people, you probably had no shortage of memories in the insult category, while struggling to think of examples of good things people have said to you – and it’s not that people haven’t spoken good and uplifting words to you but that they don’t have the same impact that negative words have.
Destructive language leaves scars, so we hang onto the negative comments longer and we recall them quicker – they simply stick with us.
Lets think back to the positive again now. While these positive and encouraging comments may not linger in your mind as long as negative comments, the feelings they produce inside us in the moment are incredible! Sincere praise and encouragement can lift a persons self esteem through the clouds. The problem is we forget it quickly and the past negative comments seep in with their tender scars and reminders bringing us back to a place where we doubt our own value.
The short version – words hurt! They’re loaded with the potential to be incredibly dangerous or wonderfully productive.
So how are you going to use your words? I want to encourage you to consider the weight of what you say before you say it. Think of how you would feel if you were being told the words you’re about to say to another.
I also want to encourage you to speak more positive words into the lives of others – Be people who encourage, motivate, uplift and praise. Speak love into the world and you will change it for the better!
To this day my dad has never mentioned the time when I said what I said. Even after he returned from his ride he never addressed it. But I can only imagine that the words swirled in his mind while he drove. And had he crashed, I could only assume it would have been my fault because the negativity I spoke into his life could have been the distraction that caused it.
Ironically about 10 years later my dad tried to teach me how to drive a motorcycle – the very same motorcycle I wanted to ride as a kid… and I crashed.