I stood at the checkout with five kids in tow. My children were between the ages of two and ten. As the cashier scanned one of my items, she looked at my pack of little ones and commented, “I only have two kids and can barely handle them, I don’t know how you can take care of five.”
I’d heard it before, snide remarks meant to fire arrows at me, and make me feel like an irresponsible adult and rotten mom. I could handle her words that were intended to wound, but it bothered me that she said them in front of my children. My children shouldn’t feel like a burden … they were a blessing.
Usually, I just smiled at people in the past, but inside I was a bomb ready to explode. Every once in a while someone said them out of admiration for me, and this would touch my heart, but today her tone and look told me she wasn’t admiring my little pack of angels… the lid on Pandora’s box fired open… words came flying out!
“Well, I must be a better mom than you!” I said, meaning to wound her back. That seemed to cause her to sputter.
Words… you can tear people down or build people up with them. Remember that saying, Sticks, and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me. What a lie that saying is! Words can be stuck on an endless merry-go-round in our head for a lifetime:
You’re a bad mom.
You’re not good enough.
You’ll never amount to anything.
Women especially can keep words in their heads… FOREVER. If someone has hurt us, ten years later we may grab those words off that merry-go-round and spew them back out again. Many times my husband Vance has said to me, “Let it go, Cindy, allow what they said to roll off your back.” But I would stew as I did dishes, thinking of all the cruel words I could have said back if I only I had been clever enough to come up with them at the moment. I never seem to be able to come up with anything.
My husband has learned over the years that I am sensitive to criticism when it comes to my cooking. When we were first married, I was far from being a gourmet chef, and Vance wasn’t afraid to say so. But as he matured and grew wiser he learned to bite his tongue.
Recently I was in Nova Scotia visiting my grandmother, I message Vance asking how everything was going. He texted back, “Well, the bacon hasn’t been burnt since you left.” I laughed. Those words were said lovingly and interpreted as I miss you!
I have had a bad habit of burning the bacon in the morning, not because I don’t know how to cook bacon, but because I get distracted and forget the bacon is in the frying pan on the stove. This use to annoy Vance. Then one day he realized if I were to die, this would be one of the things he would miss about me; my absent mindedness. He stopped complaining about burnt bacon and would tease me instead. He turned his words around from wounding me to love me.
I also learned the power of words, as a child. I had people in my life berate me with cruel words; classmates, teachers and loved ones. We’ve all been there, I know you have been wounded with words too, so I am not alone.
When people treat us poorly we have two choices: To bite back or let the words roll away.
Our daughter Aryanna was bullied by a boy when she went to public school for grade eight, and it carried on into high school. He never physically hurt her, he just used mean words to get her attention. It broke her heart and caused her to feel poorly about herself. We explained to her that people who bully are usually bullied themselves, and sometimes it is within their own homes. We would build her up with kind words when she came home and encourage her to ignore his behavior.
Children under the age of five can be bullies by nature, and most parents don’t condone this behavior and can usually reason with a child to help them see the other side. But when our kids are teenagers and are bullying others through texting or online media, it’s gone too far. Our society has become much more aware of the power our words have, with online bullying becoming more prevalent. We realize our words can crush and kill a person’s spirit. If our kids are getting unkind words at school, they need our soothing words at home even more.
Jazmin, my new bonus-daughter, was sharing with me the other day that her dad Aaron, always made her feel like she could do anything. Everything she did was fantastic to him. She was smiling as she told us a few things her father was proud of her for. It caused me to think of all the children in the world who are raised by parents who tear them down and humiliate them. Especially when children are made to feel as though they don’t meet God’s measuring stick:
God is so disappointed in you.
Imagine what God thinks of you now.
Often these kids give up ever trying to please God, feeling they can never do enough to get his approval.
Consider showing your children love and kindness and gentle words even when you discipline them, instead of berating or belittling them. Using words wisely and with grace when arguing with your spouse, or the person your dating, can build a strong foundation of trust. If you are an employer, do an experiment; try using words of praise for a week with your employees and see if production increases.
Years ago, in one of our local fast food restaurants, there was a manager that berated her employees constantly. Her harsh criticism and yelling caused the whole restaurant to be filled with silence and tension. The employees looked stressed when she was present. Their boss always had a sour, puckered look on her face. She even scared me… and I didn’t work for her.
Recently, I was in the same restaurant and the new manager, a young man in his twenties, had called out for his employees to all gather around him quickly. He said, “Good job crew! We exceeded our numbers from last week!” He then proceeded to praise them all, and their faces lit up. I thought to myself, I wonder if that grumpy boss could have increased production with praise also? Uplifting words can go a long way in getting you what you want.
I watched a small video on Youtube where a person did an experiment. They went around telling people they were beautiful and filmed the change in their expressions… it was incredible! I’ve attached the link. It get’s better as she continues to records people of all ages responding to being told they are beautiful. This causes a boost in a person’s self esteem and mental health.
Imagine if we were in a world filled with words that heal instead of wound. The possibilities are endless. Maybe it can start with you in your home or in your community. Bless someone with positive words today and see if their eyes light up.
Tell one person they are beautiful or express something you appreciate about them and feel free to comment below with their reaction. Your words may be the only encouragement they have had all day.
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Ephesians 4:29 NIV
Believing and hoping