I don’t know about you but words flow out of my mouth without thought fairly easily – I am an extrovert processor and have no problems with finding the words. Since reading a devotional about words a few weeks ago I have not been able to stop thinking about how I use them. Something that comes so easily out of our mouths can have a flipping massive impact both positively and negatively.
After losing John people said so many words to me. In my mum’s attic are bags of condolence cards – I was overwhelmed with people’s kindness and each and every card and each and every word helped make the whole thing slightly more bearable.
However I remember picking up one letter that had been written to my parents, from old family friends, who we had not seen in years, and in that letter they were saying how sorry they were but went on to say that a wife in their 20s could never get over her husband’s death at such a young age and what a hard thing I would have to bear for the rest of my life. Now I am not saying I am not grateful that they had made the effort to write, and say they were thinking of us, but those words crushed me. Those words, even though they came from the best of intentions, went straight to my heart and said “you will always be sad”, “your future is bleak” and “your heart will always be broken” – they fed into my brokenness, into my fears and sent me into dark places.
In my grieving I craved words of hope, light, life and love – I avoided conversations where the subject would be how hard it was to find love, about the difficulties of being a single parent, about how I was going to cope financially on one wage, among other topics. I needed words that kept me believing. My love language is definitely words of affirmation and so one of the biggest gifts that anyone gave me during those years after John was to say that they believed in my future, that they had complete faith that I would know love again, that it was not the end, and that there was good ahead.
I am sure we can all think of a million examples of how words have affected us. Work situations, parents in the playground, friendships, family relationships and sometimes even strangers. In a work situation one negative comment can destroy me for days despite numerous positive testimonials, and words of encouragement – it is the negative I focus upon.
Since losing my Dad me and my brother have been faced with the pretty horrendous task of sorting his estate out, the complicating factor being that my dad was not finished sorting out my grandpa’s estate, so lucky us we inherited that too! We were faced with boxes of unopened post, the good old HMRC, an accountancy business we knew nothing about and did not really understand, a property in Cyprus just as the property market in Cyprus crashed spectacularly – you name it it was there. In that time there have been some pretty stressful moments where we have both been pushed to our limits, both exhausted and we exchanged some pretty hateful and horrible words, words on both sides that were hard to forgive, words I for one regret – fortunately nearly all behind us now!
As I have thought about words I have also been thinking about the words I speak to my child and over her. What I say to her now in these formative years will go with her into her teenage years and adulthood. How she thinks of herself, what she values, her body image, her work ethic, how she treats others – all these things she will learn through me, by my example, largely through my words or lack of them. As for most parents I want my child to know she is loved and she is amazing and so I try to speak words of love, encouragement and affirmation at any given opportunity – I figure I only have a few years left to say these things before she tells me to stop! But there are times where those positive words do not come so easily, when I am tired, frustrated, irritated and stressed and I can snap and not be as kind.
As I have thought more about words I have been challenged to think more before I speak – I want my words to be truthful and honest but to bring love, life, joy, freedom and healing to people. I want to be slow to judge and slow to speak when I am angry. I do not want to use my words to put someone else down just because I am in a bad place and it makes me feel better.
“Words can inspire. And words can destroy. Choose yours well.” Robin Sharma
One of my favourite verses from the bible is from Philippians 4 vs 8, which says “…whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” No I do not profess to say I get my thoughts or words right all of the time, in fact most of the time, and it is a massive challenge for me, but I want this verse to be my standard, my benchmark for my words as they flow from my thoughts.
What a legacy we could leave through our words alone!