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Other people’s words

June 23rd, 2005 · No Comments

The other day, as I was considering which shoes to wear on stage this weekend and how I walk in them, words someone else had said to me years ago returned to my mind. In elementary school, I received an award in a competition. I was not expecting the large red ribbon or any ribbon at all, so I didn’t prepare or plan what I would do. When I returned to my table of fellow sixth graders, award in hand, someone criticized the way I had walked onto the stage. This particular someone happened to be a boy I liked. A boy I wanted to like me. As in deep crush. So his words sunk deep.

Looking back, I see silliness. Why did it matter to me what this kid said? As far as I can tell it was a sarcastic critical comment said by a sixth grader. Why does it matter how fast I walk on stage when I’m going to get an award? Yet I spent a long time later trying to recall how fast I had gotten myself up on stage to receive the ribbon, striving to recall my stride. His words mattered to me and years later I can still remember the sting and the way I winced afterwards. What other people say can play over and over again in my mind.

As a wife and friend, but especially now as a mom of young children, I try to consider the power of my speech. Recently I’ve felt challenged to examine the choices I’m making with my mouth. Will the sentences I say last with others for years because of the sting? Will people spend time going back in time trying to understand how I hurt them? Will they wince at my words? I do believe in learning from others. I want to be open to receive criticism. There’s a time and a place to critique too, even in gentle ways as a mother, to help my children grow and see. But I know in my own life from childhood, I’ve received many words from many people that were not kind or helpful. I know I’m guilty of giving out some myself. It’s easy to repeat the past. Yet I want to bless others. I want the sentences I say to encourage and build, to motivate and empower people to become all they can be, to be sun and water to a garden of growth. Yesterday when I had to correct one of my children, in private, I tried to turn it into a positive time, telling her how talented she was, showing her what she could do if she tried, giving her reason to believe she could change. Her eyes sparkled and she hugged me, sitting on my lap for a while afterwards. I want to change myself. Yet sometimes I still find other people’s words coming out of my mouth.

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