Monday, April 4, 2011
"Did you hear what you just said?"
My mother, the World's Premier Mamaknologist, was really big on the power of words -- maybe that's where I got it from. She believed that if you used words indiscriminately, it was kind of like screwing up a magical spell. She believed that words had the power to hurt or to heal and she never understood why people would use them carelessly. She believed that if you put the wrong words out into the world, the return would never be good or useful. She believed that a lack of caution in the use of words could only bring confusion, waste, pain, and a sorry wash of ignorance.
I kinda think she was right.
Once, when I was around sixteen, I wanted to go to a party and she turned me down. Flat. I weedled, cajoled, pouted, and then turned to the angry tool of every teenaged girl, "Everybody else is going." Of course she told me that she wasn't everybody else's mother: she was mine. You know that didn't work, right? I really wanted to go to that party, so I lashed out with, "It's not fair!"
And totally weary of my arguments, she finally turned from me and blurted, "Do what you want. I don't care." It took all of a second and a half for her to hear herself. She turned back to me (and I thought I was going to die). She looked me dead in the eyes and softly said, "Yes, I do."
I had no need for further clarification. I knew exactly what she meant and I was glad to know that she did mean it. In that very teachable Mamaknological Moment, I learned that my mother truly listened to me and wanted to know that I was listening to her. I learned that my mother placed value in what I did, who I did it with, and where I did it. I learned that my mother cherished my opinion of her -- enough to not only listen to what I said to her, but to also listen to what she said to me and how she said it.
As it happens, I did go to the party and I had a good time, too. But the Mamaknology of the moment, that little listening turn from my mother taught me to be careful in the words that I use with others. She taught me that making a statement of value is far different from just talking to fill space. She taught me that while nature may in fact abhor a void, a loving relationship is worth a moment of deliberate thought.
We've all heard the old saying, 'think before you speak.' Makes sense, doesn't it? Hearing what you've said to another person and realizing the impact of your words takes a moment of deliberation -- not a whole lot of time in the Grand Scheme of Things. I kinda think that we owe it to each other to literally weigh the impact of the words we use, and to realize that they can trigger the responses we get.
The Mamaknology here is that a good life and full loving relationships are worth listening to the words that are coming out of your mouth.