In History, words matter. I require my students to memorize specific quotes to make them understand what was said and what it meant, the significance of this passage or that phrase. "For we shall be a city upon a hill", "The only thing to fear is fear itself", "The Business of America is business", "I have a dream" ... You get the idea... As a society, we focus on words. Politicians speak in sound bites. Obama is about change. Bush senior wanted a thousand points of light. Clinton did not have sexual relations with that woman (only he did...). Our lives change based upon single phrases. I love you. Will you marry me? It's a boy. I want a divorce. Mom, I want to enlist... Sitcoms and movies have catch phrases to make you talk about them the next day giving them unpaid advertising and leading people who have not yet watched to tune in or go pay big bucks at the movie theater to find out exactly what Tigers do dream of when they take a little tiger snooze... We know the power of speech... Why then do people say hurtful things?
There are lots of four letter words out there that are bad, vulgar words that jar your ear when you hear them. The worst four-letter word out there though isn't a profanity. It should be though. What is it? Just. When we use this word, we are minimizing something or someone. We are saying they do not matter as much as something more noteworthy. We hurt ourselves with this every day. We say "It was just me.." in a phone message. What we are really saying is that I'm sorry that you didn't get a message from someone that matters because I do not count. Stop saying this about yourself! People say "Taylor will just be gone for four years..." Four years is an eternity it seems right now... Students say "It's just a quiz" and then are surprised when their grade is low... Stop saying JUST...If it is such a small thing that it can be minimized so easily, it didn't matter in the first place.
Tell the truth. This should be so simple. Lying is hard. You have to remember what you said to who and when. The truth is the truth; you never have to try to remember what fabrication you created. You just remember what actually happened. I've had students lie about the silliest things this week, and each time, it hurt. In every single case, there was no need to lie. The students lied to get away with something. What they really accomplished is losing my trust. Trust is huge. Without it, you cannot build a relationship. Do NOT lie.
Remember who you are talking to... This afternoon as I was leaving school, a dear, dear, dear co-worker was leaving the office and she was clearly distressed. She wears about ten different hats at school, and does a remarkable job with each. To see her distressed was hard. She had been fussed about by about four different people because they had not done what they were supposed to do and it had now reached the serious stage. Did you read that? They were angry with HER because THEY had not done something and it was her job to ask them about it. Three of the four people's words slid off her back. They were not people that she was terribly close with, so the words had little effect. The fourth, however, was a friend. He was cold to her. Again, the fault lay with him, but he was cold to her. She was shaken. You could tell that she was hurt. I would never have thought that, she said... I apologized for him although apologies do not work like that. Treat your friends well. They have your back, and they will fight for you. They care about you. Why hurt them when you mess up?
Words can be powerful tools. They can brighten someone's day or destroy it. Use words wisely. Go tell your beautiful wife that you love her. Call your parents and thank them for all they did for you. Brag on your children in front of them. Thank your friends for their support. Words matter...