For some strange reason I woke up thinking about something cruel said to me long ago in my youth. It was probably triggered by a commercial I saw last night that dealt with bullying, but it reminded me that unkind words are very easy for some people to say, but incredibly difficult for the recipient of those words to forget. They become indelible scars on our spirits that come back to haunt us in painful ways, destroying our confidence, creating walls between us and unfettered happiness. I see those words as emotional burrs; constant reminders that we are not good enough or that we are not truly safe.
Not every cruelty I’ve encountered has been given intentionally; sometimes it is simply someone not thinking, someone angry who is selfishly dumping bitter words in an attempt to make themselves feel better. Sometimes it is someone trying to be funny or to boost their own ego by tearing others down. So many opportunities to carelessly wound others irrevocably; their appearance, their differences- sometimes no reason at all. I learned important lessons from each instance of cruelty that I have experienced over my lifetime. I can still hear my mother saying, “Honey, consider the source!” as she held me in her arms listening to my tearful recounting of what had happened. At the time I didn’t really understand what she meant, but eventually I realized that a person’s actions are a reflection of their own character- not of any perceived deficiencies we may have. I learned the power we wield to build someone up or tear them down, simply by the words we speak.As a teacher, I do my best to uplift and encourage my students, even when I have to discuss uncomfortable subjects with them. Difficult truths can still be given in a way that conveys support and encouragement. It is important to me to never to say anything that is intentionally- or unintentionally- hurtful. It’s just not worth the pain it could cause others.
Every single action we take, each word that we speak, has the power to uplift or tear down- a responsibility that I will never take lightly. When I leave this world, if nothing else I hope that people will remember something kind or encouraging that I shared with them, something that helped them to see their beauty and worth.