Our words carry power. I often forget this, throwing around my words in a cavalier and reckless manner, failing to realize that I have the power to encourage or devastate with the words I choose to say. I try to be so careful in certain situations not to be offensive or to hurt people, and then I end up neglecting to monitor what is coming out of my mouth.
Words can serve as many things: a bridge to reach another person, a knife to cut a hole in another's heart, or a balm to soothe and encourage someone who is defeated. I know I would prefer not to wound others by what I say, but so many times I'm simply unaware of the power of my own words, and I need to be more careful.
I can see in my children's faces when my words have hurt them. I vowed to never be that parent who doesn't listen when my kids are talking, but the reality of parenting is that we all do this. We nod, raise our eyebrows slightly and say "mmm...." when our kids are telling us something, because we are checking e-mail or talking on the phone or measuring flour into cookies or thinking about anything other than what is urgent for our children at that exact moment.
The other day I responded absently to William, who turned my face to him with his chubby little hand, and said, "Mom, you aren't listening to what I'm saying." It was as if the fog cleared and I heard what he said and gave him a decent answer, not a throwaway one. It's simply not possible to listen to every word out of our children's mouths, but I want to be more alert in this area. I want them to know that what they say is important to me, and be more aware of the power of my words in their young and impressionable memories.
With my husband, I often forget that a kind word, or a grateful one, goes a long way to building and maintaining trust and companionship in our relationship. It's easy to criticize and complain, and much harder to build up and encourage, but the way we speak to each other determines the emotional temperature in our home. If I sow kindness and love into my words when I speak to Jason, I reap the same thing in return. If I treat him badly, and take out my frustrations on our relationship, it breeds distrust and hostility, and I don't want to live with that on a daily basis.
With my friends and extended family, I also want to step up when it comes to what I say. Tone can easily be misconstrued in the electronic age we are living in, and it's important to choose our words with care, and possibly follow up in person or on the phone to ensure that we are understanding each other and not mistaking honesty for sarcasm, or vice versa.
We all say stupid things from time to time and have to apologize for them. It's part of the human condition. But once words are said, they can never be unsaid, and holes can be torn in relationships which must be mended. I'm learning to be more careful with what I say, and to err on the side of kindness instead of meanness wherever possible. Our words have the power to raise up or to tear down at any given moment, and I plan to be more aware of this fact in the days and weeks to come.