Battle of the Bilge

Last week (On Valentine's Day, actually), I saw a friend's Facebook status that I absolutely loved.  It said, simply and perfectly, what I've said over and over again--to myself and others--about words.
Be careful with your words.  Once they are said, they can only be forgiven, not forgotten.
For anyone who's read me for any period of time, you know this is a topic that I bring up over and over and over again over the past ten (plus) years.  Sometimes because I think others need to see it, but also because I need to write it for me.

Again, anyone who's read me for any period of time knows that I sometimes shoot off at the mouth (or keyboard) when I shouldn't.  I try to be conscious of it and--believe it or not--I really edit what I actually write from what I really want to write.  I also try to be conscious of when I write things.  Timing is everything, which is why I'm writing this blog this week, instead of last weekend as I had originally planned to when I first found this quote.

But this is one of those topics that we all need because we all need to remember how powerful our words are.

As a country we're gaining an awareness of the damage that words can do as it relates to bullying, and thank goodness we are!  Children will never learn to stand up and speak up for themselves if the adults don't set that example for them!

But what about words that aren't considered bullying?  The words that we say in anger?  The words that we say without thinking?  What about the words we think we're justified in saying?  (Yes, I did just imply that we actually have no right to use our words to intentionally hurt others, even if we feel justified.)

Don't worry, I just stepped on my own toes, too.

But does saying these things we say actually do us any good?  I mean, yes, we get the (very brief and often unrewarding) satisfaction of saying what we think at that very moment.  But then we get to deal with the fallout of those words.  Because as much as we'd like to think we can say what we want and then just apologize it away when we're calmed down...those words don't go away just like that. 

Just as a physical wound would have to heal, a verbal wound takes time, too.  And the deeper the cut, the longer it takes and the more likely it will leave a scar.

And not only do we hurt others with the things we say...we hurt ourselves, too.  Our words show who we really are in these moments just as clearly as our actions do. 

Don't believe me?  Read Luke 6:45.
"The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart.  For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks."
What can be clearer than that?  If I speak evil it's because I have evil in my heart.  If I speak good, it's because I have kindness in my heart.  What I say to others reveals to them the true nature of my heart.  It also reveals to them how I really feel about them.  When we love someone and we don't want to hurt them, we bite our tongues.  When someone matters to us, we show it by what we do and don't say.  So when I speak hatefully and hurtfully to someone, I'm giving them the non-verbalized message that it means more to me to say whatever I want to say than that person actually means to me.

That's why we have a rule in our house.  "I'm sorry but..." is not allowed.

"I'm sorry, but" doesn't mean you're actually sorry.  It means "I know I shouldn't say this, but I don't respect you enough not to say it."

So "I'm sorry, but" isn't an option.  It's outlawed.

But even still, we're not perfect.  No couple is.  So there are times that one of us will pop off something in anger that we really, truly don't mean.  But we're getting better about owning up to it.  And the sooner the better, because the longer that hurtful words are hanging out there in the air...the more damage they do.  And some words do irreparable damage.

So my goal is to watch my words, not as they leave my mouth but before.  My goal is to encourage others to watch theirs.  My goal is to put their feelings and my love for them above my need/want to be heard because the people in my life are there because I love them.  Just saying "I love you" isn't the only way that I should be telling them that. 

Watch your thoughts, for they become words.
Watch your words, for they become actions.
Watch your actions, for they become habits. 
Watch your habits, for they become character.
Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.

That's what careless words do.  They make people love you a little less.
Arundhati Roy

Words are pale shadows of forgotten names.  As names have power, words have power. Words can light fires in minds of men.  Words can wring tears from the hardest hearts.
Patrick Rothfuss

Did I touch a nerve?  Don't take it personally.  Life applies to us all.


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About The Author
Ashley Wife & Mom

Ashley is a thirty-something wife and mother of two boys. She enjoys spending time with her family, as well as reading and decorating their home. Her blogging adventures began in 2006 as a single mother and have carried on through marriage and a new life with a husband, a teenager, and a pre-schooler.