Our words have power.
Power to encourage or discourage.
Power to heal or hurt.
Power to share love or hate.
Power to lift up or tear down.
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This power exists not only in the spoken word but in our written words as well. How will we choose to use this power? The power of the spoken word is strong. From personal experience, I know the spoken word’s power. A mother who was emotionally and verbally abusive stripped me of self-confidence at an early age. All I heard was the negative way in which she saw me. No positives were ever uttered about my successes, but my failures were exponentially blown out of proportion.
Then I was witness to the same thing happening to a brother eight years younger than I. But there was a difference. He was strong-willed and outspoken himself, even at an early age. Mama would allow him to fight back with words. Somehow this was not acceptable behavior for a girl, so I became complacent and nonconfrontational. To this day, I see much of my mother in my younger brother.
Today a brass trio played at our church. Three trombones, one played by an 80-year-old retired physician who is teaching the other two trombonists the art of playing, both aged 13 and boys. I spoke with our retired friend later today to thank him for what he is doing to encourage these boys and he shared a story. It is the perfect contrast to the negative language and its power.
One of the boys failed to hit a low D more than once in the composition played. Evidently, he apologized more than once after they finished. Our friend related his response to this boy: “I told him ‘Andy, don’t think of the notes you missed. Think about all the notes you got right. There were far more of those.’ ” I thought how lucky this 13-year old boy is to have such a mentor. What about in our writing? Do our words carry this same power?
I believe that depends on what we are writing and who our intended audience is. For example, in my writing the story of my life with my mother, I hope to show the power of her words as I was growing up but also the ending of my book will show the power of certain words she spoke to me in the 10 days before her death. After almost all the lifetime I could remember at age 57, my mother finally affirmed me as a loving daughter who had “done everything just right.”
The impact of those positive and powerful words washed over me in a way I still struggle to explain. For purposes here, however, I can tell you that their power was infinitely stronger than the words uttered to me as a child and younger woman. Finally, she affirmed me as a person and actually lifted my self-esteem.
I am hopeful that this ending can run counter to my early story that people will gain insight not only to treatment of others but the hope that difficult relationships can be healed with a matter of a few words. Many of you have memoirs of happier memories and a more positive context within which to write your stories. Others have stories more painful than mine. You have to choose how to tell that story. However, try to remember the power of your words once on the pages of your book and the impact they may have on others.
Coming up: What about memory? When digging back to write our stories, just how accurate do those memories need to be?