John was in fifth grade when he declared to his teacher, “I want to be an Oceanographer”. She said, “You can’t do that. You’re not good at reports, and you’ll need to do a lot of reports.” In an instant, she crushed his dream. John believed her because he had always struggled with writing.
Now in his 50’s, John remembers those searing words spoken from someone he admired, but more importantly, he remembered how he felt – discouraged and flawed. He wonders if his life’s path might have been different if his teacher had encouraged his aspiration.
Words have the power to inspire us or crush us as Don Miguel Ruiz talks about in his bestselling book, The Four Agreements. Based in ancient Toltec wisdom, the book’s first agreement is, “Be impeccable with your word.” Ruiz writes, “The word is the most powerful tool you have as a human; it is the tool of magic. But like a sword with two edges, your word can create the most beautiful dream, or your word can destroy everything around you. One edge is the misuse of the word, which creates a living hell. The other edge is the impeccability of the word, which will only create beauty, love and heaven on earth.”
Being mindful of what we say to people is an act of integrity. Because when we speak out of anger, jealously, disgust, impatience or hate, our ego or false self is driving our words to defend our position, which makes the other person become defensive and even stop listening. We achieve exactly what we don’t want – diminished understanding. Speaking our truth from a kind and genuine place, from our truest self, however, is life affirming.
Here are 12 quotes on how much our words mean and the lasting impact, good or bad, they can have on people:
1. “You must speak straight so that your words may go as sunlight into our hearts.” ~Cochise (“like Ironweed”) Chisicahau Chief
2. “Words are like eggs dropped from great heights; you can no more call them back than ignore the mess they leave when they fall.” ~Jodi Picoult
3. “One lie has the power to tarnish a thousand truths.” ~Al David
4. “Throughout human history, our greatest leaders and thinkers have used the power of words to transform our emotions, to enlist us in their causes, and to shape the course of destiny. Words can not only create emotions they create actions. And from our actions flow the results of our lives.” Tony Robbins
5. “Words can inspire. And words can destroy. Choose yours well.” ~Robin Sharma
6. “Be mindful when it comes to your words. A string of some that don’t mean much to you may stick with someone for a lifetime.” ~Rachael Wolchin
7. “I do believe that words…go into the body, as effect. So they cause us to be well and hopeful and high energy and wondrous and funny and cheerful. Or they can cause us to be depressed. They get into the body and cause us to be sullen and sour and depressed and, finally sick.” ~Maya Angelou
8. “Be careful what you say. You can say something hurtful in ten seconds, but ten years later, the wounds are still there.” ~Joel Osteen
9. “Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.” ~Mother Teresa
10. “If we understood the power of our thoughts, we would guard them more closely. If we understood the awesome power of our words, we would prefer silence to almost anything negative. In our thoughts and words, we create our own weaknesses and our own strengths. Our limitations and joys begin in our hearts. We can always replace negative with positive.” ~Betty Eadie
11. “Remember your words can plant gardens or burn whole forests down.” ~Gemma Troy
12. “Never speak from a place of hate, jealousy, anger or insecurity. Evaluate your words before you let them leave your lips. Sometimes it’s best to be quiet.” ~Tony A. Gaskins Jr.