Most people have heard the saying “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Well, that is a big LIE! Words are being used more than ever to hurt people in the world today. Have you ever said something that you wish you could take back? We all have. In fact, there have been times when that little voice in my head has advised me, “Don’t say it, you’re going to regret it…” and I still spoke those words. Usually, an argument begins when I could have avoided it with words of kindness or no words at all.
Positive or negative, WORDS are powerful! When someone says something unkind or unloving to us, it’s very difficult to forget. When someone lashes out in anger, we find ourselves flashing back to those words in our minds even years later. Yes, we can forgive others but that does not always erase the power of the words said to us.
With the permanence of words in mind, “Garbage in, garbage out” can be helpful in managing the words we speak. So many kids consume a diet of cultural garbage (music, social media, home environment, etc.) that it will soon become part of their vocabulary and speech. I am not able to keep my students from hearing/listening to every negative influence, but I can emphasize the importance of self-regulating appropriate boundaries and how the input affects output.
I like to use the apostle Paul’s instruction (Colossians 4:6) to keep the words we speak “seasoned with salt.” Having children think of their words as salt is a good way to help them identify the many situations where their words can be used for positive.
Salt enhances the flavor. A pinch of salt can bring out all the wonderful flavors around food. The same is true for words. It doesn’t take much, but positive words can enhance a conversation through compliments and respectful responses.
Salt melts ice. People can sometimes be cold when speaking to each other. Do our words help melt the ice or add to the chill? Remind children if they are given the cold shoulder by someone, they can try to warm things up with kind words.
Salt was once used to slow infections. Remind kids when they hear rumors or gossip about others, it can spread like an infection. Help them understand they have a choice to either refuse to participate or use their words to spread the rumors (infection).
Salt preserves. Kids can definitely see how our world is moving further away from love and kindness toward each other. Encourage kids to ask themselves if their words are preserving their morals of good character as well as treating others with respect.
Salt is best used in small amounts. Remind kids to keep their words positive, respectful, and brief. Just a few kind words in a difficult conversation can increase the chance that the listener will be responsive to what we say and give them more space to speak. Remember: quick to hear and slow to speak.
The words we speak are an overflow of what’s in our hearts.