Words Matter

Posts 04

Words matter.  We all know this.  I suspect we all repeat the lesson over and over.  We know we should control our words, so why do they run away with us so often?  We teach our children to use their words not their hands.  But I’m wondering if I have imparted any wisdom to my children on choosing the right words.  It’s an important lesson.  Words have the power to lift us up, to cheer us on in our tough moments, to communicate love.  They can also crush us.  Especially when they are wielded by the ones we love, the people who know our vulnerabilities.


My reminder of this today came in the form of a distraught child.  A tween, really, if I’m being honest.  She came in from playing outside.  Our neighborhood has community property behind us.  It is wooded and has a creek running through it.  Not big enough to get lost in, but enough to lose the outside world if you try. The kids love to go to “the forest”. The usual rules are use the buddy system, stay out of the creek if it’s not summer, and watch out for snakes! Today, however, the tween girl wouldn’t go play with the tween brother.  She wanted to play with her friend.  He received a special dispensation to go by himself.  But the friend went home and they found each other in the woods.  He was playing as boys do.  She came upon him lazily bending a small tree.  Why? Because he’s a boy playing in the woods. The tree was there.  This act of his ignited all of her 5thgrade moral outrage.  He wasn’t being fair to the poor tree!  He could kill it!


Now, let me be clear. This daughter of mine is extremely conflict averse.  We are trying to give her the skills to stand up for herself because her behavior often closely resembles that of a doormat. She has a huge heart.  She also usually turns tail and runs upon the first sign of disagreement. We have had many conversations about how she can use her words to stand up for herself without being mean. She is very afraid of being perceived as mean.  So, my first thought when she came through the door with a red face and looking upset was that someone hurt her.  What happened?  Did someone hit you?


She clearly did not want to answer my questions, but eventually admitted that she had a fight with her brother.  There was yelling and screaming.  They were hitting each other.  Whoa. Full stop. SHE was yelling and screaming? I was baffled.  She told her story through relentless tears.  She came upon a horrible injustice in the forest.  Her brother was being “unfair” to the tree.  She was afraid he could kill it.  So, she gave in to her desire to boss her brother around. He predictably flat-out ignored her and continued to bend the tree.  Then he had the audacity to tell her “no” when she instructed him to stop.


Had the conflict stopped there, I wouldn’t have the topic of “words” on my heart.  Somehow, the discussion escalated into arguing, the arguing escalated into yelling, and the yelling escalated into one kid telling the other that if the tree didn’t deserve to live then neither did he.  My two youngest children were in the woods yelling at each other that they don’t deserve to live.  If that doesn’t make you take a deep breath as a mother, then I don’t know what will.  Words matter. I know neither of them really wishes the other one dead.  In fact, when I asked the boy if he really felt that way, he replied, “of course not, I love her.”


He loves her.  Of course he does.  And yet, he used his words to hurt her.  Because he was angry.  Because he didn’t like her telling him what he can or can’t do. Because he is human just like the rest of us and he fails in spectacular ways sometimes.  He is just like his mother that way.


For my daughter’s part, she was extremely remorseful and apologetic.  And wise beyond her years.  She told me that she was mad at herself.  Mad at…herself?  Wow. I’ve felt that way more times than I can count.  I get angry or frustrated or feel full of righteous indignation and suddenly my mouth is running away from me.  It is not a character quality that I’m proud of.  I pray about it.  I ask for forgiveness and for the ability to do better next time.  I’m still working on it. It’s so easy to fail.  I have a husband, 4 children, and lots of extended family.  I am a communicator.  I talk a lot. Which means I use a lot of words. It also means I give myself frequent opportunities to fail.  The plus side is that I have many opportunities to use my words for good.  I can comfort a hurting child, help a friend through a heartbreak, or reach out to a crying stranger.  I am usually good with my words.  Usually, but certainly not always. I tend to mostly get it right in the big moments.  I’m good with the words to the friend with the cheating husband, to the teenager who knows someone talking about suicide, to the 911 operator when emergency strikes.


I fail though with words in the everyday moments.  I argue with the kids about homework.  I lose my patience. I grumble about the slow line at the post office.  Words matter, and I need to keep working on this.  I demonstrated this concept to the kids with the toothpaste activity.  Toothpaste is like your words.  I had them empty it onto a plate and then ask them to put it back.  Once your words are out of your mouth, you don’t control them anymore. Words are a product of our hearts and minds.  They say more about us than what kind of degree we have, job we hold, or car we drive.  Eyes are not the only window to our soul.


Proverbs 17: 27-28 says, “The one who has knowledge uses words with restraint, and whoever has understanding is even-tempered.  Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues.”  There is no doubt that I should contemplate this verse before I speak in anger.  If I haven’t, then I should use my words to apologize.  “I’m sorry. Will you forgive me?” goes a long way.


Where do you find yourself today? Have your words been kind? Hurtful? Have you been silent? That is a communication all on its own.  The good news is that we have the gift of communication, and as long as we have the gift of another day of life, we can begin again.



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  1. Jewell Curtis says:

    What a beautiful piece, Amy! It certainly makes one think.

  2. Diane says:

    Amy, that was beautiful! I am so thankful you have decided to share your wisdom!!! ❤️

  3. Jane Mazurkiewicz says:

    Really enjoy your insights Amy!

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