We can never fully know the impact of our own words on another person. Our words are powerful. Words have the power to lift someone up, or to tear them down. I think of this often when choosing words to use with my children.
When I was in college, I loved to write. I wrote letters, journals, poems, and I especially loved writing screenplays. I loved bringing to life stories of the women I was learning about in history and women's studies classes through the dialogue of a screenplay. It was a hobby that brought me great joy. I once shared a screenplay I had written with a friend. She told me, after reading it, that I was "a terrible writer." Those words landed right at the core of my being; they became my new truth. Writing had been something I loved, but became something I avoided, something I abandoned. Our words are powerful.
Last Friday, on my husband's birthday, we got news that his dear friend Greg had passed away. My husband, left shocked and heartbroken, searched for meaning in the loss. He tried to avoid the guilt that inevitably sets in over precious time that was taken for granted. In his search for meaning, he came across an email that his friend had sent exactly one year before on his birthday. It was a gift of words. An expression of gratitude for their friendship that gave my husband great solace and I am sure will continue to for years to come.
At the end of the email, Greg left a gift of words for me too. He wrote:
"And tell your Muddy Footed Momma to update her blog more often! She is a really good writer and it let's us keep up with your family. This is a direct order, not a request."
These simple words of encouragement healed a wound in me that I was never able to express to Greg. While I know we should not be defined by the words of another, there is no denying that our words are powerful and they impact those around us. Words have the power to break us and the power to heal us.
I am learning to be more mindful of my words, especially with those closest to me, those who feel the impact of my words most deeply. I am learning to hold back my reactions. To hold back my harshness and watch as it fades and allows space for me to respond with clarity in my head and heart. I am learning to be more vulnerable, to speak the love and gratitude I feel in my heart, especially when fear is holding me back.
We never fully know the impact our words have on another person. I never got to thank Greg or tell him how much his encouragement meant to me. How deeply transforming his kindness was. So to honor his gift, with gratitude in my heart, I will follow his order and keep on writing.