Sticks and stones may break your bones but words will never hurt you.
Generous. Selfish. Educated. Ignorant. Informed. Stupid. Inspirational. Insensitive. Encouraging. Demanding. Honest. Liar. Helpful. Pompous. Supportive. Exhausting. Real. Fake.
Those are the words that were assigned to be by others in a three day span. Some were said in moments of emotional release and others in a thoughtful moments of planned conversation. Some were said to me, face to face and others were whispered behind my back. Some were said by people I have known my whole life and others by people who hardly know me at all. Some words hit their target and others missed the mark.
Words have a lot in common with sticks and stones. They both can tear something apart and they both can be used to make something great, something unstoppable. The funny thing is, it usually isn't the positive words that build the strongest character, its the harsh ones, the ones that are hard to hear, the ones that prompt us into self reflection and hopefully steer us toward self improvement.
The words people say to us can encourage us, hurt us, inspire us or can stop us dead in our tracks, but only if we let them. Each adjective that was tossed my way last week left an imprint. Some imprints were as fleeting as footprints in sand and others were branded on my heart and I will carry them with me forever. The choice is mine, which words I allow to change me, mold me and stay with me. I get to decide what the truth about me is. I am the only one who gets to write the story of my life. I am responsible for all of the success and all the failures. I set the pace and tone and direction. I decide what I am going to believe, what I am going to own, who I am going to listen to and how their words will affect me as I live my life. I am accountable for the life I lead, me and no one else.
The thing is, if we are really honest with ourselves we already know the truth about who we are. We know our strengths and weaknesses, we are aware of our success and failures. We know when we flub up, make mistakes and 'step in it' and we recognize when we have done the right thing, said the right thing. We know all this. We know that the words that hurt the most are the ones that are closest to the truth and that the words that give us strength are directed at areas we have been working to improve. For all our righteous indignation or humble demeanor, we know the truth of who we are, what we are capable of and what course our life is on and nothing anyone says to us or about us has the power to change that unless we let it. For better or for worse, we know the truth.
Sticks and stones can break things but they can also build castles and cathedrals ... so can words.
Words have the power to destroy or heal. When words are true and kind, they can change the world.