One minute I was upright in the ocean, but in the blink of an eye, I was improperly acquainted with the coarseness of the ocean floor. While involuntarily being drawn in and pushed out of the rip current, I struggled to get vertical and out of the dangerous rhythm. Once my feet were under me [and my swimsuit was wiggled back into place-gah], my victory of not drowning gave way to a nagging concern.
My ear was filled with water.
My hearing was muffled and all the effort in the world wouldn’t release the water. As I repeatedly bounced my head up and down, trying to force the water from my ear, a tiny bit of panic set in. Not only would the water not come out, but I was beginning to wonder if it was more than a bit of water in my ear.
Since my ocean fiasco, a persistent buzzing has afflicted my hearing.
This is a residual effect of a wave having its way with me. A residual effect is the aftereffect of an experience that may impact a person. The humming in my ear is certainly the aftermath of my bottom dwelling ocean experience!
As I’ve been thinking about that experience, I’m reminded how true this is in other arenas of our lives. Specifically, I’m thinking about our words [to no one’s surprise]. I spend a great deal of time advocating for people to consider their words. Kindness isn’t just a trendy gesture; words have the power to change the trajectory of lives.
Think about it. When someone has “gone off on you,” what is the residual effect? Maybe you fight back with words, internalize the hurt and become depressed, or intentionally avoid future interactions with the perpetrator. No matter how you respond, there is fallout that impacts you negatively. Broken relationships and trust are not high on my “this is fun” list. I’m guessing the same is true for you.
When we measure our words, we pause long enough to determine if what we are saying is true, helpful, and necessary. There are many true things I muzzle because they aren’t necessary, or they don’t move a person or relationship forward.
The bible speaks of the need to clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Oh man, that’s hard. Sometimes-rage likes to have the last word. If we recognize the strength and power of our words, and we surrender to the process of using them for good, we will lead with compassion-even when we are hurt.
Even when we are angry.
Even when we are justified.
Unmeasured words leave trauma in their wake. They cripple the souls of others. You may know because you’ve been the recipient of unmeasured, unkind words. You may know because you’ve been the distributor of such. There is a residual effect on both sides of unmeasured words.
People are hurting.
People are lonely.
People are afraid.
The humming in my ear is frustrating. I carry the impact of my “fall” with me every moment of every day. Many of us are carrying the weight of hurtful words. Like the constant buzzing in my ear, the residual hurt of unmeasured words is a constant reminder of the fallout.
Words are a big deal.
Our tongue can be a sword or a salve.
The residual effect of measured, meaningful words is powerful, but research shows it takes at least four positive to every one negative comment to create a healthy balance. If your life is like mine, those numbers are probably upside down. With intentional awareness, we can use our words to make a positive impact on those around us.
Who might need your words of encouragement today?
Take a chance, friend. #Sowkind into a coworker, loved one, neighbor, or perfect stranger.
Let’s measure our words and promote healing in our relationships.