“When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time” ~ Maya Angelou
Words are powerful.
The things that we say and how we say them have effect. They have the power to inform, to spread love, to boost confidence and to empower. But they also have the utmost power to hurt, to cut deep, to spread and move and grow hate and to undermine, manipulate and use as control over. As a writer I am drawn to words. I use words to share my truth, and to encourage growth and change, not only within those who read my words, but for myself, as I make sense of my experiences by writing about them. I also have a strong tendency to believe the words spoken to or at me.
Very often, we underestimate the power of words. Although there is always an attempt to minimize them, words can and do have a powerful effect. When I was a young teenager, thirteen or fourteen, I went to see my family physician because I was having significant lower back pain. Unfortunately my GP was not there, he was on vacation and there was a locum physician filling in for him. He told me and my mom that my back pain was related to my being overweight. I’m not sure that I was overweight, perhaps I still had some “baby fat”, but those words stuck with me. Ever since then, I have been consumed with exercise and calories, and at times have hovered on the borderline of an eating disorder. Despite knowing cognitively that I was a young teenager and had not finished developing, knowing that I was not and am not overweight, I still hear those words.
Recently, I completed a test, or an assessment rather, based on the Five Languages of Love. This premise supports the idea that there are five ways individuals express love. Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Receiving Gifts, Quality Time and Physical Touch. It was no surprise to me that my primary language of love was analyzed to be Words of Affirmation. The assessment revealed:
Actions don’t always speak louder than words. If this is your love language, unsolicited compliments mean the world to you. Hearing the words, “I love you,” are important— hearing the reasons behind that love sends your spirits skyward. Insults can leave you shattered and are not easily forgotten. You thrive on hearing kind and encouraging words that build you up.
Actions have not always been something that speak louder to me. In fact, I have on occasion, ignored my “gut” feelings regarding a situation or a person and only believed their spoken words. Despite, that something felt “off” or not congruent with their behaviour. I have learned that I am very good at rationalizing bad behaviour.
In my attempt to set intentions and to be present, brave and kind, I have recently reread The Four Agreements. The very first Agreement is to “be impeccable with your word”.
Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the Word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your Word in the direction of truth and love.
In a poetic and concise way, this Agreement simply states that we should be careful of the way that we use our words, against others and ourselves. That the power of our words should be used for good and not for evil.
Although I do not have control over how my words are interpreted, or how things are received that sometimes fall out of my mouth. I do have control over my choice of words and the manner in which they are stated. I have had to express sensitive concerns to some of my best friends, and the choice of words was paramount, but also expressing these words with kindness and love. I also have control over the intention behind speaking those words.
I have also, unfortunately, been on the receiving end of when words have been used as a weapon. A very calculated, pointed and intentional weapon. The words that have the power to lift me up and express love, also have the power to destroy. For me, in my world, where words are important, the verbal assault is more violent and painful then a physical one. I remember singing on the playground, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me!” It should have been, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will devastate me.”
What I have discovered about myself, is that I have a tendency to believe the kinder words and not those spoken with hate and malice. I believe the words over the tone and the body language. I believe the words over the complete disconnection between those words and the actions. I recall nursing school and “conflict de-escalation” classes, and the concept that words account for 7% of the message being delivered and received, and that paraverbals (tone) and body language account for the remainder. For a message to be conveyed accurately, all of these have to be in alignment, otherwise most will believe the non-verbal components of the communication.
Words are powerful, so powerful that I believe the words, but actions truly do speak louder. I am learning how to trust my gut and understand when the words say one thing but the actions show something more powerful. It is truly far easier to say or speak the words than it is to act in alignment with those words. I’m learning how to hone into the message being sent, to trust when the message is not in alignment and to no longer enable bad behaviour.
Words are powerful, actions are louder. Use your words to speak your truth, be brave. Use your actions to show your truth, be kind.