My little sister Alexis and I are five and a half years apart (weren’t we cute?!). From the very beginning, I had her back. We weren’t always actual friends like we are now LOL but she was always one of very few who I would literally do anything for. I felt like, since I was the big sis, it was my job to protect her, to help guide her, to impart “wisdom” from my extra 5.5 years on the planet.
One day, while Alexis was on winter break I believe, I gave some unsolicited and harsh “advice and wisdom” to her regarding finding a job for the summer, telling her basically to step her game up. Her response? “See, this is why I don’t tell you things. Why do you always have to put me down?” I immediately got defensive, because I called myself only trying to help. I realized later though that my approach was way off, and so she wasn’t receptive.
This weekend, as my family spent time together, we were cracking jokes on each other as we always do. I made some little digs about Lex being spoiled and needing a job, out of what I thought was a joke or at least funny to me. A little bit later, I was feeling mad guilty about it. One, I was unemployed for months on end after graduation, and it hurt me to my core. Two, my sister is about to be a senior in college herself, and is genuinely trying to work when she could be relaxing before her final year. So I should’ve been way more understanding and not tear her down like that, even as a joke. Plus, I do actually want to see her win! I sent her a text yesterday at work, genuinely apologizing for what I said.
It was a reminder to me just how much words matter. You can literally make or break a person, just off of the words that you say. I know that for myself. I’ve gotten to the point where, if I don’t know or care about you, it won’t make one lick of difference what you say about me. But I’ll be honest. It wasn’t always that way. Though I played tough when I was younger, I internalized words from my peers and family. Some words left scars that I’m just now, at 26, starting to get over. Some words left open wounds that are still healing.
That saying “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” is pure BS. No matter how strong you are, the WRONG words from the RIGHT people still can hurt like hell. What you say can have lasting impressions and impact on other people that you may not even know about. It’s so important to think through what you say before you actually open your mouth. It’s a lesson that we’ve probably been taught when we were younger, but how often do we push that to the side, justifying our meanness as just to be “real” or “honest?” How often do we use our words to make what we think are “harmless jokes,” entertaining ourselves at the expense of others. I do that ALL the time. I’m really trying to get that part of me together.
I’ve also learned that it’s not always what you say, but HOW you say it. I’ve shared thoughts and opinions with my sister that she actually took to heart, and it’s partly because I approached her differently with it. Not in a condescending, know-it-all kind of way, but in a loving way that let her know, “Hey, I still have your back, but look at it from this perspective.” I’ve also realized that sometimes the best response is no response. And that’s hard for me, especially when it comes to my fam. However, my sister is 21. In the eyes of the law, she’s grown. In the same way that I wanted to do my own thing, so does she. So now, I try to tell her what I think only when she asks. Keyword: TRY. Meh, I’m a work in progress.
So consider this: are your words helping or hurting? Do you uplift other people with the things you say, or are you finding that you tend to go for the jugular? If the latter, make a decision that you’re going to work on that! There is serious, SERIOUS power in the tongue. You truly never know what other people are going through, and how your words can either bring them up or drag them down even further. It’s a simple, but true message that I’m working on myself. Speak life today.
(Sidenote: Lex, I love you so much and always have your back. Again, I apologize if I ever hurt you in any way with my words!)