Erika Workman & Kevin Hall

I’ve been thinking a lot about the power of words recently.  This past Saturday I was so fortunate to be a sponsor at the iCreate workshop for teens.  One of the guest speakers was Kevin Hall, author of the book Aspire:  Discovering Your Purpose Through The Power of Words.  At the workshop he discussed words like Namasté, Genshai, Sapere Vedere and Resilience

Namasté – saluting the Divine within
Genshai – never treat anyone small
Sapere Vedere – knowing how to see
Resilience – your greatest success comes after your greatest heartache.

Kevin shared with us that he was brought into this world by a teenage, alcoholic mother.  She didn’t turn her life around and start living her purpose until Kevin himself was a teen.  Through all of the dire circumstances of his childhood, his mother knew enough to look at him and say “you’re going to do great things someday.”  I heard a few sniffles, looked around and realized these sniffles were coming not only from the girls in the audience but some boys too.  Kevin had hit a button.  I think we all want to know we have a purpose, that it’s important and that we will do great things someday.

This phrase touched me deeply because I say it to my own children.  Sometimes I look at my 3 year old and say to him “Blaze, you’re going to do great things someday.”  Most of the time the words don’t faze him and he runs off to play.  Other times, he’ll look at me and say “thank you, mama,” before he runs off.  I love knowing that it’s sinking in and I’m programming him in such a positive way.

I never heard words like this as a child.  Or, perhaps I have amnesia from them because the negative words touched me more powerfully.  I spent many years hearing voices of my parents say things like “you idiot, my teenagers are so dumb, what’s the matter with you?”  I’m sure they were both simply hitting the replay button from their own childhoods.  Needless to say, I have spent a lot of time and energy clearing those old damaging words and choosing words that I want to hear.

 Before I ever had children I developed a unique perspective on words, especially cuss words.  I started my career in the mental health field working at residential treatment facilities and psychiatric hospitals, mostly with teens.  Some unit supervisors were almost Nazi’s when it came to swearing.  I, however, don’t care.  Cuss words have never fazed me.  If the kids dropped something or stubbed a toe and a “choice” word leaked from their mouths I turned my cheek.  They were simply expressing the energy of the emotions felt in the moment.  However, if they called another kid a name or told them to shut-up I was all over their case.  I would take “points” or privileges from them and explain the reason for it was because of the damage done to another human being when belittling them with these kinds of words.  I hope, somehow, it sank into their brains.

 I’m the same way with my own children.  In September 2010 we returned from a cruise.  While standing in the SLC airport I discovered that my brand new suitcase had been ripped when it was dumped onto the baggage ramp.  I was ticked!  My 3 year old blurts out (in the middle of a crowd) “What the f***!”  Oopsie!  What a proud parenting moment that was!  I told him “we don’t say that word in front of other people!”  He said it again… and again… and again!  Oh my, what have I done?!?!  Fortunately he forgot the word until recently and said it again, at least this time it was in our car.  I told my kids that I really don’t care if they use cuss words.  I explained to them that other people might think they are bad for using words like that so I advised never to use them at school or other people’s houses, especially at grandma’s! 

 Now, saying “shut-up” or “you’re stupid” will get you a time out or soap on your tongue faster than flies on poop!  I simply don’t tolerate belittling.  I always explain to my kids how damaging it is to hear those kinds of words.  Generally, my kids are kind and loving to each other and to other people.  Every once in a while the beast escapes and we have to tame it once more!

 I hope this article will inspire you to consider the words you use in daily life.  Now, I don’t condone running around dropping f-bombs and offending everyone around you… not a good idea!  But, really consider how you make others feel and what you are teaching your little people by the words you say.  Are you constantly complaining and sending the message that life is difficult?  Or, are you sharing the idea that things are generally good, there is always hope and saying things that represent a positive outlook?  These too are words that will create mood and emotion in other people. 

 I would love to hear your comments about how words have affected you… either negatively or positively.  Thanks for reading.  Also, please feel free to share this article on your blog or website, as long as my name is included and linked back to me.  Thank you!