I think most people who know me well would describe me as being a bit hot-headed. I prefer to use the word “feisty” (it sounds better!) but I have to admit that I have a bit of a temper, and it’s something that I struggle to control at times. My biggest struggle is to try and contain those words that I know I shouldn’t say; the words that I know will hurt those around me. All too often, they fly out of my mouth and I am left trying to repair the damage that they caused.
Most of us are probably taught the saying “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” as children – a way of trying to encourage us not to take hurtful words on board. Whilst it’s true that words don’t cause us a physical injury, the wounds left by them can sometimes take longer to heal and can fester for a long time if we allow them to do so.
Words, whether spoken verbally, or published online have a huge amount of power. Social media and the blogosphere can be a minefield at times. With the loss of tone of voice, it can be easy for our words to come across differently to how they were intended. Sharing our thoughts on Twitter, for instance, with its 140 character limit, can mean that we come across as abrupt without meaning to. And in the heat of anger, it is all too easy to fire off a quick message on social media, or an email, that we may regret later on.
It is rare for me to post something online whilst angry. I may type it out, I may even save it into drafts. But I know that once my words are out there, I cannot unsay them. And so I resist the urge to hit publish and wait until I have calmed down and can re-read my words with a clear head.
It is amazing how much of an impact that just a couple of words can have. “I’m sorry” is one of the most powerful phrases in the English language – so much healing potentially packed into just two words. “I understand”, “I’m here”, “I care”, “I love you”, “too late”, “if only” – so much summed up with just a few well-chosen words.
When we use our words to heal rather than hurt, we can make a huge difference to those around us. It’s not always easy, and those angry hurtful words can and do slip out all too easily, but sometimes we just need to stop, take a moment to pause and choose our words carefully.
I love the acronym THINK for helping me reflect on whether to say something or not – is it True, is it Helpful, is it Inspiring, is it Necessary, is it Kind? If not, then perhaps it might be better left unsaid. After all, as my mother once told me, if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all!