I was at Target yesterday, and the woman in line behind me was growing more flustered with her kids by the minute. Her child committed one final egregious offense, and she said loudly "I swear you're birth control for people without kids!" This wasn't the first time I've heard this comment, maybe some comedian made it popular? But I was shocked. She also had an older son, who clearly heard her and knew what she was saying. I have also had the experience of asking people how their kids are, and been told (with their kids right next to them) that they are "rotten," and my favorite of all time, "buttheads." Seriously. Kids were right there. Now you have to wonder if maybe their behavior has something to do with the parents? Kids have particularly sensitive ears when you're talking about them.
But our words can hurt adults, too. I think we've all made comments in frustration, or "jokingly" (when really we weren't), that we regret later. Our words can affect personal relationships, business interactions, or total strangers in line with us at the Target. I heard a quote once that says "Our thoughts become our words, our words become our actions, and our actions become our character." Kind of puts a new spin on it, doesn't it? Now I'm thinking more carefully about my thoughts, too!
The book "The Four Agreements" by Don Miguel Ruiz is a wonderful little book in size, but it contains profound ideas about how to live life. It won't ruin the book to tell you that the first agreement is "Be impeccable with your word." Don Miguel argues that our words are so important that they can "change a whole belief for better or for worse." Think of the example of the kids at Target. The mom was really saying he was a terrible kid, and I think it could be inferred that she wouldn't have had him if she knew what she was in for. Maybe that child was just having fun being a kid, and mom was having a bad morning. He now believes that mom thinks he's rotten. Perhaps even a butthead. Possibly he then questions his own worth for the first time? I'm not saying he will end up in a gutter as a teen, but you get the idea. Our words reflect our innermost thoughts, and they tell a lot about our character. Speaking with intention to communicate clearly and honestly is a goal that can be achieved, if we are working on our thoughts and character, too.
Words can also have a positive impact. Giving a compliment, saying a heartfelt thanks, or offering a sincere apology can foster better relationships. If our thoughts are coming from our hearts, from a place of love and peace, then we can use our words to influence those around us in a beautiful way. Think of Martin Luther King, Jr. or Gandhi. I like to think of the positive things I can do with my words. What we say really matters, and can affect the world for good or bad. If I work towards kindness or "impeccability" in my speech, I can hope to influence others around me to do the same. Maybe then kindness and peace will attract more kindness and peace and all of our interactions will be sincere.