Words Do Real Damage –
3 Questions to Ask Before Speaking
Words do real damage. Sometimes we learn this life lesson by things that are said to us, and sometimes by words we say to someone else. Once a word is spoken, it can never be taken back. Even the most sincere apologize will never truly heal the wound.
With this in mind, it is important that we think first before speaking. Especially in a moment of high emotion or anger. Here are three questions you should ask yourself.
One of my favorite stories is about a little boy with a bad temper. Everything I found online says the author is unknown, so I will only be crediting the site where I found the story.
Nails In The Fence – Author Unknown
There once was a little boy who had a bad temper. His father gave him a bag of nails and told him that every time he lost his temper, he must hammer a nail into the back of the fence.
The first day the boy had driven 37 nails into the fence. Over the next few weeks, as he learned to control his anger, the number of nails hammered daily gradually dwindled down. He discovered it was easier to hold his temper than to drive those nails into the fence.
Finally the day came when the boy didn’t lose his temper at all. He told his father about it and the father suggested that the boy now pull out one nail for each day that he was able to hold his temper. The days passed and the young boy was finally able to tell his father that all the nails were gone.
The father took his son by the hand and led him to the fence. He said, “You have done well, my son, but look at the holes in the fence. The fence will never be the same. When you say things in anger, they leave a scar just like this one. You can put a knife in a man and draw it out. It won’t matter how many times you say I’m sorry, the wound is still there.”
The little boy then understood how powerful his words were. He looked up at his father and said “I hope you can forgive me father for the holes I put in you.”
“Of course I can,” said the father.
Story found on: Inspiration Peak
Life Lesson Learned
This story illustrates an important life lesson. Words can do damage. Words spoken in anger are like the piercing of a nail. A sincere apology might remove the nail, but the scar is now forever there.
Like the little boy in the story, there is something we can do to make sure we are putting as few nails as possible into the fence. Ask yourself these three questions before you are tempted to say something in anger.
Would I Write It Down and Sign My Name to It?
Internet trolls and cyber bullies have done their best to make social media a hostile environment. The common thread among these harsh critics is that they typically speak anonymously.
It’s easy to say something hurtful or disparaging when you know the words won’t be attributed to you. But if you don’t want your name attached, should you be saying it in the first place? Most likely not.
Take a minute to think the next time you are inclined to write or say something negative. Imagine yourself one, five or ten years in the future. Would you want these words attributed to you in your life story? Would you want them to be the words you are remembered for?
We never know which of our words will be the ones that will stick with someone. That is all the more reason to choose them carefully.
How Would It Make Me Feel?
Next, switch roles for a moment before speaking. How would you feel to be on the receiving end of what you are about to say?
Cruel and heartless comments have become commonplace today. High ranking people in positions or authority are setting the worst example by their careless use of words.
Don’t follow their example.
Would you want to be called fat? Stupid? Crazy? Lazy? Incompetent?
Then don’t say those words to someone else. Don’t post them on social media.
Would I Want It to be My Last Words?
The sad reality is that someday we are all going to die. That’s a life lesson we are reminded of every day. We may live to be 100, or we might die in a freak accident later today. The six people recently killed by a bridge collapse in Miami were just going about their daily life. They had no warning that their time was up.
If today were your last day, what were the last words you spoke to your loved ones? Is that how you want to be remembered? Would you want those words on your tombstone?
In other posts I have talked about how I lost my wife suddenly. In the decade since, I have often agonized over our last conversation. Trust me when I say that it is not a burden you want to carry.
In conclusion, remember the fence as you go through your day. It might take a while for you to stop putting nails in it. Likely you will never stop. But you can reduce the number of nails by thinking carefully about what you are going to say next.
I hope you enjoyed this life lesson. Do you have questions you ask yourself before speaking? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.
Until next time….