“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.”
Anyone remember this phrase? If you grew up pre-millennium you have more than likely heard this bouncing around amidst a playground spat. The idea being, you can break me with the things you do, not say. I think we can dispel this adage because it simply isn’t true. The things we say carry significant weight. I’ve understood for sometime that bruises may fade, but it doesn’t quite work this way beneath the surface.
The good and the bad about words is that they can often penetrate our thoughts without our permission. And this is why words can be so potent, powerful and healing, yet so detrimental, dangerous and destructive. A popular biblical proverb states that life and death is in the power of the tongue. This is a profound reality.
I remember my first public performance, aged 13. My legs were jelly! It was the words from my father that gave me strength, and his words thereafter that gave me reassurance. Without them, I would have sunk. I recall my Dad asking me beforehand, what I was afraid of; I was petrified of being laughed at, and laughed off the stage. He said something to the effect of “I’ve heard you sing son. You’ve spent time preparing for this and I wouldn’t put you on stage if you were not ready. You are ready.” He reassured me that those in the crowd were there to support me. His words were the power up I needed: music to my ears. I did the show; my legs were still jelly, but I made it.
Often, the words spoken by the ones we hold dear carry the most weight. It’s reasonable to suggest that we internalise the words (positive or negative) more significantly when spoken by those we love and respect. This is why I believe that as fathers we have a duty to speak words that will positively frame the mind-set and thinking of our children. I see the way my son and daughter beam with delight when seeking my approval. I understand, as I learn more about my kids, the importance of each word I speak. Despite the many challenges of parenthood, I can only hope that no opportunity to speak to my children is wasted or abused.
35 years in and I can recollect the countless words that have shaped the very essence of who I am. It wasn’t the one, or the few, but the many words of affirmation I received as a child, adolescent and young adult that held me steady, and continue to do so, during moments of self-doubt.
I experienced a period in my early twenties when my self-esteem was low. I was afraid of the future and the negative words I spoke over myself were damaging. It was the words of the late author, Myles Munroe, which cultivated the spirit of leadership within me I never knew existed. These words spoke life to me daily. I wrote them down in journals, placed them in songs and spoke them through poetry; and it transformed my thinking.
It took me 6 years to release my first solo album, which was an uphill struggle. There were times when I considered packing it all in. If not for the encouraging words to “go all the way” spoken to me by a friend, I may well have given up.
How many times have you felt the urge to simply pack it all in and run? I mean really run away from life’s challenges? But that one liner via text kept you going, an inspiring word from a friend or a video encouraged you to rise again.
I cannot pin my success or failures in life on one or two poignant encounters. I am the by-product of so many variables. Nonetheless, I am markedly who I am as a result of the numerous and continuous words that were spoken to me over time. After all, it takes more than a brick to build a house, and Rome wasn’t built in a day.
If we endeavour to raise the kings and queens of the future, we have a responsibility to select our words very carefully. So, let’s choose them with wisdom and love.
Written by Cal-I J. Muirhead