We are all familiar with the old nursery rhyme ‘sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.’ Many of us were told this in response to bullying and name-calling, and while this idea that words are not powerful enough to break us down or harm us in any way is momentarily comforting, it is also far from the truth. Words have more power than people give them credit for. Whether they are on paper or being said out loud, words can be just as effective as sticks and stones. They might not be able to leave physical bruises and scars but they can divide a nation, end friendships, and start wars.
It sounds like I am talking about words as if they are separate entities that we have no control over, but the truth is, words are us. They give us a way to communicate what we think and how we feel. Words allow us to copy ourselves down on paper or plant a part of ourselves in the ears of anyone who will listen. And once they are spoken, these words become the property of other people. Not in the sense that they own what we say, but in the sense that they own their interpretation of our message.
No one has figured out how to take back words after they have been spoken just yet so it is always important to remember that once you say something, you can’t unsay it. Your words can have a lasting effect even if you said them several months ago. This is why it’s always a good idea to only say what you mean. Often times we get into an argument with our friends and we only say hurtful things because we were angry and wanted to hurt the other person. It is during those times when we need to be careful with our word because sometimes we don’t say what we mean, but the person on the receiving end of our words don’t know that.
All they know is that their emotional response to the words that were just spoken can’t be taken care of as easily as a month old pizza stain on a shirt. The words, while they have a chance to set in, can’t be washed away once they are embedded in the fabric of a person’s thoughts. A girl in my class once said that it was important to always be impeccable with your word. I had never heard this phrase before (it’s one of Don Miguel Ruiz’s Four Agreements) but once she explained what being impeccable with your word meant, it all made sense.
Impeccable in it’s simplest form means without flaws; something that is perfect. But because there is no such thing as perfection, when impeccable is being applied to words, it takes on an entirely different definition. It’s all about, again, saying what you mean and realizing that there is power in your words. Then, after realizing that power, you have to try to speak with integrity. Be honest when you speak and try to say more positive things than negative. You might not think any of this applies to you now, but it does. We don’t see it as much as we should, but we are always saying things without thinking and we allow ourselves to fall back on our youth as an excuse for the things that we say. But even though we are young, we are still held accountable for our words.
Don’t be remembered for the hurtful or untruthful things you say. Instead, be more honest; more impeccable with your words by realizing that they do have the ability to hurt people if you use them for that purpose. We are the only ones who can decide what we want to say and how we want to say it.
Image: Nina J.G.