Words’ impact can be lifechanging

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Words are powerful. They carry energy and creativity. Words, as I once heard Maya Angelou say, cause people to go to war or inspire people to pursue peace.

Of course being a writer, words for me are living things. They move inside me like my breath moves through my lungs.

However, most of the time we don’t think about the power of what we say, how it builds up or breaks down. We don’t realize how the words we think and speak change lives.

Realizing this seems especially important for our children‘s sake. Parents, teachers and all adults who come in contact with kids have a huge impact on the way they come to view themselves and their talents. What we say to them matters.

In my own life, there are words that stayed with me. Some of what I heard inspired me, enlightened me and helped me to grow. Other comments brought fear and judgment and are, perhaps, the ones that speak the loudest if I’m not paying attention.

One of my earliest memories revolves around words I overheard, words spoken as an attempt at humor. Now, Daddy loved me and I never doubted that for a minute. In addition, he never did anything to deliberately hurt or discourage me. Unfortunately, he was human and sometimes didn’t realize the power of his words.

When I was about four years old, I loved to sing, liked the sound of my voice bouncing off the walls of our big old house. Then one day I was singing as I passed the living room door and I heard my Daddy say something, laughing as he spoke.

“Oh goodness, Nancy can’t carry a tune in a bucket,” he said.

Those words felt like a punch in my belly and I immediately shut my mouth. From that day until this one, I am not comfortable singing in the presence of anyone.

Years later, I shared this experience with Daddy, who didn’t even remember the incident. True, I’m grown and if I’m still allowing those words to influence how I feel about singing, it’s my choice, but oh, it’s a challenge to change early programming.

Now to another, more positive, example of the power of words. I was working at a newspaper for the first time. My job was to type copy that came in and then edit and proofread it before it went into the paper.

Secretly, I wanted to write a news story for the paper, but I was too shy to ask. Then one day the publisher called me in and said they needed someone to conduct an interview and write a story. He thought I could do it.

And, after I wrote the story and it ran in the paper, he called me into his office again. This time he told me about his own writing and praised the story I wrote.

“You can write,” he said. “You should keep doing it.”

I left that office walking on air. I don’t know if he ever knew what his words did for me. They are probably the reason you are reading this column today.

I share these examples as a reminder to myself to weigh what I say to others. In addition, what I say to myself, my internal conversation deserves some attention as well. Words I whisper in my head are often more judgmental and unkind than anything anyone else might say to me.

Yes, our words matter and it is a simple thing to take a moment to think before we speak. We can make the choice to use words that uplift rather than tear down. We can choose to offer encouragement and hope when we speak (and when we comment on social media) instead of preaching gloom and doom.

Yes, as long as we live in a human world, words have power. If we remember this, perhaps, our lives and the lives of everyone we encounter will be a little better.


Nancy Blackmon is a writer and yoga teacher.