Every one of us know what is feels like when someone shows interest in who we are as a person. When they truly care. Each of us also know what it feels like when someone says something hurtful that feels like it cuts us to the core.
Our words are powerful. Aldous Huxley once said “Words can be like X-Rays if you use them properly — they’ll go through anything. You read and you’re pierced.”
I have a friend who I met 8 years ago. His name is Sergio. He was staying with a family friend of mine as part of a foreign exchange program. It was his very first time in a country other than his own (Venezuela). He knew no one. He knew no English. When you’re thrown into an environment like that, it’s terrifying. Sergio quickly learned English though (he really had no other choice!) Sergio and I, for whatever reason, also became quick friends. He made it through his year of the Exchange Program and afterwards I went out and spent 3 weeks with his family in Venezuela and experienced a taste of what life was like for him, where no one spoke the language I spoke.
It’s been eight years, but Sergio and I finally were reunited this week. It was like not a moment had passed. We laughed, we learned each other’s languages again, and we had a great time. It was then that I sat with Sergio as we were reminiscing. I asked him how exactly we had become friends. His response hit me and was the reason for the the title of this post. He said “When I came to this country everyone treated me differently. I was different. Some thought I was dumb because I couldn’t speak English. Some people talked to me really slow. But after being here for a few weeks, you were the first person who asked about me. Who tried to speak my language and get to know the real me. What I liked, what I didn’t like, about my family. You really cared.”
That simple statement reminded me of how powerful our words truly are.
Our words can build up. They can connect us, change our lives, and develop friendships we would have never expected. But as I’ve seen in my own life and the lives of others, words can destroy to. They can place mistrust, they can destroy reputations, they can cut you all the way to the bone where you wonder if you will ever heal from the hate that was thrown at you.
Every day we come into contact with others we have a choice with how we use our words. Whether it’s in what we say, the look on our face, of our body language. Those are all forms of communication.
This week I encourage you to think about the words you’re using with your students, your co-workers, and your families. Let’s be extra cognizant about the words we choose.