StonesPerhaps the biggest lie we learn in childhood is “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.”

We all know that words often hurt way more than sticks and stones. I can remember clearly many instances in my life when someone tossed a careless criticism or and intentionally harmful word my way. Some of these instances still sting or make me cringe or wince as I remember how painful they were for me.

I’ve heard it said that it takes ten kind words to erase or balance the damage done by one harsh word of criticism. I know that for myself this is definitely true.

I’m sometimes careless with my words and I know that you are too. It’s human. For some of us, words leave our mouths before we have a chance to think them through. For some of us, words become a weapon when we’re hurt by someone else. For some of us, words are a way to make ourselves feel superior and others feel stupid.

In the past week:

A fourteen year-old girl in a neighboring community has taken her own life because of harsh, cruel words that came from bullies.

Ann Coulter used the “R” word in a display of gross ignorance.

A child I love was brought to tears because of a careless joke an adult told to make other people in the room laugh.

In the past week:

A child I love smiled toothlessly (and joyfully) when an adult told him that he was a good basketball player.

Two fifth grade girls exchanged compliments of each others’ artwork and both of them felt good about their talents.

I received an encouraging note from a friend that restored confidence I was beginning to lose in a project I’m attempting.

Words matter.

It’s a time in our country where people are choosing sides and it seems to be accepted and okay for adults to belittle and berate each other in the name of politics. The commercials are ugly. The news commentary is ugly. The posts on social media are ugly.

Remember two things:

1. Your children are paying attention to what you are saying. You’re making fun of the governor or the president? Your children are watching. You’re making generalizations about a political party? Your children heard that. You speak unkindly to the person who brings your food or lie to a friend on the phone? Your children noticed. You’ve criticized your child’s teacher or a leader in your church? Your children learn from the way you speak to and about others.

2. Your words have incredible power to build up or tear down. Choose them carefully and when in doubt, keep quiet.

“Before you speak ask yourself: Is it kind, is it necessary, it is true, does it improve upon the silence?”

― Shirdi Sai Baba

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