Summit Thoughts

Words hurt or heal

Words hurt or heal

I consider it an immense blessing to continue to have friendships with people who played key roles in crucial points of my life’s journey. Just last week, I had the fantastic opportunity to have an exchange with a friend at university and a face-to- face catch up with a childhood friend who now lives in the USA and who I have not seen since 1987. They shared how the hurtful and judgmental words of two senior educators in positions of authority impacted them. One of them decided to quit school altogether whilst the other completely changed his views of religion or the self-proclaimed religious.

The interesting thing is I witnessed both incidents and the words that I heard uttered towards these two people I respect also impacted how I related with the two said senior educators. Their lack of tact considering their level of education angered me back then. I lost respect for these people in authority and began to adopt a healthy cynicism towards those who proclaim to have power over others just because they were in a position to do so. These two experiences taught me two things: (1) respect is something that is earned; (2) words can either hurt or heal.

We can easily take for granted that what we say may have an immense impact in the lives of people we touch on a daily basis. These two great friends of mine remember what they were told twenty-three and thirty years ago. Even though I was only a witness – I still do too. I have had a few outbursts in various contexts but I always take moments to reflect and find ways to consciously ask for forgiveness or seek clarity on what I wanted to convey.

My uncle who was a US marine turned Reiki master taught me karate for years (from the age of 11 to 15) told me one thing that I try to apply everyday: “before you react to anything or say anything, count from 1 to 5 and with each count remember a person you love.” This practice gives some space so that the words we utter towards others become more considered. After all, words do hurt or heal.

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