Use kind words.
“Words are singularly the most powerful force available to humanity. We can choose to use this force constructively with words of encouragement, or destructively using words of despair. Words have energy and power with the ability to help, to heal, to hinder, to hurt, to harm, to humiliate and to humble.”- Yehuda Berg
Growing up, we have been warned of the power of our words. We have learned through the experience of our own, or of others, that the power of our words can pierce like a double-edged sword. “Think before you speak,” “Be quick to listen and slow to speak,” “Count to ten,” are uttered commands cautioning us against a flippant tongue and a careless mouth. Likely, “That’s not what I meant,” “You misunderstood me,” “I spoke too soon,” are all attempted apologies we mutter when we realize the weight of our words a little too late. You see, at certain points in our lives, we have all been on both the giving and receiving end of painful words. We have experienced the instantaneous guilt of our words causing harm to someone else and we have also experienced the shame and discouragement of words that have pierced our own souls. We have been put in time-outs, forced to say our “sorries”, reprimanded and scolded when our words evidently pained someone else. On the other end, when we have been wronged by words, we have retreated to our safe-haven, justified our grudges, given off the silent treatment, launched a mute warfare; we have mastered the art of building up walls and closing our hearts when we feel like we have been wronged or when we have experienced pain. But, on both these ends, as the giver and the receiver, we are constantly learning the power of our words.
But, as we grow older, the consequences of our words grow more impactful. The power of our kindness, then, grows more powerful. Often, we exude kindness where we think it is deserved. We judge our circumstances, we judge our spirits, we judge people, and we evaluate whether or not kindness is deserved. I have been learning this in my own life recently. I have noticed myself examining my circumstances and attitudes, justifying myself based on my judgement of what other people deserve. I have found that my actions and attitude have been influenced by what I believe I deserve in return. When I have felt cheated at work, when I have felt discouraged, when I believe I have been treated unfairly, or when I have not received what I believe I deserve, I have withheld kindness. While it has not been intentional, it is profound. I have been humbled in learning that my acts or attitude in giving kindness to others should not be dependent on what I think they deserve or even what I think I deserve. You see, when we release kindness from the confines we keep it in, we allow its work to influence people, to illuminate circumstances, and to touch the world beyond what we could ever imagine. When we let go of our control, of the power we believe we should have in judging the circumstances and people in our lives, we will experience a freedom in giving kindness that does not grow dependent on what we think we deserve. When we let go of our perception of what we think we deserve, we will learn that our kindness is not reflective of how fairly we are treated. When we allow freedom to replace our perception of rightness, we will experience the true nature of kindness.
We learn, then, that using kind words becomes more important now, than it was when we were growing up, playing with our schoolmates on the playground. We realize the positive weight in exuding kindness in more profound ways than our grade school days. We more deeply sense the humbling nature of being kind even when it is not deserved or warranted than when we did growing up in our homes. When we grow out of grade school, we realize that there are no rules. We no longer find teachers intervening in arguments, righting wrongs and warranting apologies. We more clearly see unfairness played out in the workplace, in educational institutions, in our own government, in life in general. But today, more than ever, we find that the powerful nature of our kindness has the capacity to soften our own hearts, to rid our souls of bitterness, and to travel to places and people beyond what we could ever conceive. When we experience the humbling force of kindness and the freedom that it awards us, we may discover that kindness does not become something we reward to people when we see fit, nor does it become a reaction in good judgement, but it becomes something that we exude because it is deserved in and of itself.
Mother Teresa once said, “People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self centered; forgive them anyway. If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives; be kind anyway . . . . In the final analysis, it is between you and God; it was never between you and them anyway.” Our kindness has a bigger purpose that surpasses any understanding of what we think we deserve. So, live graciously anyway. Despite how you have been wronged or the ways in which you have been hurt or mistreated, be kind anyway. For the humbling freedom you experience in kindness will defeat what you think you deserve in any way.