I went on a day trip with a friend recently. She’s one of those friends that I’ve enjoyed for at least a decade and, while we don’t spend nearly as much time together these days, she’s one of those friends where the months between visits melt away when we get to chatting.
We were talking about our kids, our lives and our adventures and I shared with her that I have always admired the kind of mother she is. I don’t know how she does it, frankly. Her girls are in so many activities that she’s driving them around every afternoon. She works long hours to support them and still shows up at their extra curricular activities. She cooks most nights, avoids feeding them fast food as much as possible – I could go on, but know that she is awesome and dedicated and I have mad respect for her.
She laughed and responded that I had said something to her years ago that has stuck with her ever since. Apparently, I told her all those years ago that it seemed to me that she didn’t really enjoy being a parent.
I was surprised. I had no recollection of saying this thing that had become such a brain weasel for her. I’m grateful that it ended up being a motivator in her life, rather than something she held up as an impossible target that tore her down instead of lifting her up. But I don’t remember saying it. I don’t remember the context. And I sincerely hope that I hadn’t said it in a cruel or flippant way because nothing could have been further from the truth, given the woman in front of me today.
This has had me thinking about the impact and value our words and I’ve had two thoughts on the matter. The first is that we can’t always control the impact of our words. I’ve had similar experiences of hearing very profound messages in statements that were not intended as profound. As an example: when I was quitting smoking and found myself cheating a little, my brother made a flippant comment that a single cigarette makes me a smoker. I didn’t want to be a smoker. Because of his words, I have literally never touch a cigarette since that moment. Not once. My brother knows that his words have had this impact, but at the time, the comment was relayed in a very off the cuff manner and he had no intention of being the life line I needed to finally quit.
The second thought I had is that I need to be more aware of what is coming out of my mouth. I tend to kid around and sometimes I go to far. I often use humor to dispel discomfort and if you don’t know that about me, it can be hurtful. But most importantly, if my words can have the ability to linger, I want them to be words that lift them up, empower them, inspire them or give them hope.
What impactful words do you carry with you? Does the speaker of those words know the impact?