10 years old
I remember the first time I really understood that words could be hurtful.
It was the summer after 5th grade and I was mad at my mom (for something silly, I’m sure). I decided to write out my feelings. These “feelings” included strong language that I thought was really cool and grown-up at the time. In my mind, I never intended for my mom to actually read it, so it didn’t matter that I was using the “f word” or the “b word.” They were just words, after all.
Words are tricky though. Whether they’re spoken or written. They’re hard to take back.
My mom found the letter.
I can remember the look on her face as she read the letter back to me. As I watched her hurt expression and listened to the words I wrote her, I just kept thinking, “These words were never meant for you to read. This wasn’t supposed to happen!” It was too late. It was happening despite my intentions.
I realized I didn’t want to hurt other people in order to make myself feel better. I started to differentiate. These curse words were hurtful, no matter how they were used. If it not okay to SAY these words, then it’s not okay to WRITE these words. And if it’s not okay to do either one of those two things, then it’s probably not all right to THINK those words.
I needed to change. I was a ten year old with a mouth fit for a sailor. I had to break the habit.
I decided to make a rule to keep me accountable to my values. I decided that I would start by limiting myself to use two curse words per year. (In my ten year old logic, I felt like this was reasonable. As a twenty-six year old, I can see the flaws in my logic, but it was a start.)
I remember going back to school for 6th grade and telling my friends I had “quit cursing.” I told them about what I had learned that summer and I’m not sure they fully understood.
Twenty-six years old
As I’ve gotten older, I realize it’s much harder than putting words on a “good” and “bad” list. There are all kinds of hurtful words. I no longer hurt people with curse words. I hurt them with normal, prideful, snobbish, and condescending words. Even nice words are considered hurtful words if they’re used in the wrong way.
Words can make you a bully, a boss, a judge, or a saint. My words are defining me, whether I like it or not.
Blogging is especially hard. It’s a bunch of words I write at home. I don’t have the facial expression of my reader to direct the progression of my words. It’s just me in my head, the computer on the desk, and my fingers typing out the words on the keyboard I cannot take back. That’s tough.
Blogging has shown me where I am failing to be considerate of others INSIDE MY OWN HEAD.
Remember when I told you “if you can’t say curse words, then you can’t write them; and if you can’t do either of those two things, you shouldn’t even THINK them?” It’s true. If you’re not sure what your thoughts have been, writing will show you what you’ve been thinking. If it’s offensive, then use it as a clue that your thoughts and perspectives are skewed. You are a bully inside your own head – even if it doesn’t come out in conversation all the time.
In order to change the way I act and speak, I have to first change the way I think.
Developing a new outlook is necessary to root out the fear, arrogance, and pride that have been shaping my former frames of reference. I have to rebuild.
I realize it’s WORK to figure out your values and try to live by them. I may not like what I find shaping my thoughts; but it’s better to find it, than to remain ignorant. Change is necessary for growth. It’s helpful knowing where to direct your efforts for change.
I love words… but then sometimes I hate them.
I didn’t know I was signing up for a self help program when I agreed to blog for a year, but it’s starting to look that way.
Thanks for being my reader; even though – sometimes – I abuse my power as the writer. I’ll try to keep you in mind. I promise to keep working on becoming a person with thoughts and words worth reading. We’ll be growing together.