I sat in the parking lot as the rain poured over my car. In the safety of my blacked-out SUV, I sobbed. "This isn't like me at all," I thought "letting people's words affect me so much is ridiculous!" My mind replayed the entire scene back to me, the rude comment my director said to me in front of the entire class, the laughter he directed toward me around 20 minutes later, the face of the student next to me, though I couldn't tell if the student's reaction was towards me or how the director was acting.
Words are much more powerful than we give them credit for. Proverbs 16:4 "Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. " Whether or not you agree with the Bible, there is undeniable evidence of this in real life.
One day I was having a conversation with some women about healthy eating. I explained that occasionally I will forget to eat lunch. With a dumbfounded look on her face, one of the women asked: “Well if that’s true, why aren’t you skinnier?” Her words bore a hole into my core as dark thoughts circled in my head. Thoughts of not being good enough, that the only ones who are worthy are those who are smaller than me. Past regrets came flooding back, memories of days spent not eating washed over me. Honestly, I do not think that the woman meant her comment in a vindictive way, but that’s how powerful her words were.
On another occasion, I was taking a difficult music class in which the professor was, for lack of better words, a hard-ass. He was strict on absences and homework. There were weekly quizzes and hardcore exams. After one of our quizzes, I distinctly remember him thanking myself and a fellow classmate for singing the piece with musicianship. I was shocked by the compliment because they were rare to come by. His words of encouragement have stuck with me to this day.
My absolutely favorite professor said something that I hope I never forget: "Invest deeply, hold loosely." I can’t tell you how many times I heard him say it, but I can tell you that it has been a great reminder for me in various situations. He wasn’t the most endearing professor, in fact, at one point he gave me all the tough love possible and questioned if I was able to deal with being a music major. His words pushed me towards better things and I am a better person because of what he said.
Words can either build up or demolish and while we do not have control over how others take what we say, it is important to be aware of the words we use. In every moment, my hope is to build others up, to encourage them to do better, to use the power of my words for good.