At the beginning of the year, Bea was teased by a friend. We processed the words at the time, but the incident has come up again and again. In fact, I was surprised when, six months later, we came home from a playdate with that friend and Bea mentioned that she hadn’t been teased! Later, after her birthday party, Bea’s first observation was that her friends didn’t tease her. We still talk about it sometimes.
Frank and I had to tread carefully when processing this with Bea. The words were clearly hurtful and it broke my heart that someone had made fun of my sweet girl. I know that this is the first of many times when words will be spoken and feelings will be hurt, and I doubt it will get any easier.
As we processed with Bea, we made sure to talk about how her friend’s words were mean, but her friend is not. We wanted to really establish that people do hurtful things, but they are not hurtful people. That words can be used to hurt, but that doesn’t make the person using them bad.
And really, Bea’s friend wasn’t being mean or purposefully hurtful. She was acting her age and navigating the odd social system of the preschool set. Just as Bea was learning how to respond to hurtful words, her friend was learning to see which words could be hurtful.
It made me think of how our words matter.
During our miscarriage, as our nurse was searching the ultrasound for a heartbeat, there was a subtle shift in her vocabulary. She went from talking about the baby’s heartbeat to that of the fetus. I didn’t really register that shift in the moment, but on reflection, I realized how helpful it was for me to begin the grieving process. I needed to detach myself a bit from the idea of a healthy baby and recognize that we had an unviable fetus. That small shift was exactly what I needed. For others, that shift may have been harmful to their process of healing.
Our words matter.
When life is busy and Frank and I are like passing ships in the night, it’s easy to say things quickly and without context. It’s easy to stick with business conversations of groceries and bills and doctors appointments because we have limited time, and those are pressing. And yet… Taking a moment to have a small but powerful conversation about us is what keeps us going during those busy seasons.
Our words matter.
When we experience yet another mass shooting that brings about conversations and big feelings surrounding gun control. When another person of color is killed by a white police officer and conversations about justice resurface. When our own background and opinions get in the way of real, valuable conversation, I am reminded of how much our words matter. My words matter when I choose to say something against injustice. And they matter when I stay silent and listen. They matter when I push back or when I engage.
My words matter.
I’m learning again and again that how I speak and what I say matters. Whether it’s something small to one friend or something bigger to a larger audience, I am learning to stop, to take my time, and to remind myself that my words matter.
How do you process your words? Any advice for future hurt feelings?