We begin a story with a word.
We use a word to praise.
We use a word to encourage.
We use a word to curse.
We use a word to hurt others.
Those four letters pack a powerful punch. A written or spoken word can be a lethal weapon.
Karen Lee said my site was “cute”—a four letter word that sent my brain wheels a spinnin’.
A minute later, Karen popped up on my site and clarified her use of the word “cute.”
She said, “I hope you didn’t take my compliment the wrong way…I think your site is very colourful, simple, and interesting without being too busy…I think it is cute.”
Karen is obviously sensitive to how others feel. A quality I admire. “Thanks, Karen.”
Maybe growing up, Karen felt the sting of an unkind word. Perhaps her experience was similar to the one I endured as a kid. I don’t know. But here’s a snippet from my perspective.
“Hey, Tracy. You’re cute,” said a throaty voice, echoing across the playground.
I dug my heels into gravel and twirled around.
The boy strutted over.
I shoved my glasses up over the bridge of my nose, dipped my chin, and giggled. “Gee, thanks.”
The boy clutched his belly, doubled over, and laughed so hard I thought he’d pee his pants.
“Huh?” I scratched my head. “What’s so funny?”
He leaned in. Nose to nose he breathed in my face. “What a dork. Don’t you know what cute means?”
The pit of my stomach churned. “No…no,” I said with a stutter. After tacking on that four letter word, I had a sneaky suspicion “cute” didn’t mean beautiful.
“You’re cute, stupid,” he repeated, adding another hurtful, five letter word. “Get it. Cross-eyed and bull-legged.”
Okay, so I wore cat-shaped glasses, although I wasn’t cross-eyed. But that one hurtful word made me chuck my glasses into a trash can. My school work suffered because I couldn’t see the blackboard. Mom wasn’t too pleased. She eventually had to buy me another pair.
Then I remembered a story I came across which sums up perfectly how a “word” affects others.
NAILS IN THE FENCE
There once was a little boy who had a bad temper. His Father gave him a bag of nails and told him that every time he lost his temper, he must hammer a nail into the back of the fence.
The first day, the boy drove 37 nails into the fence. Over the next few weeks, as he learned to control his anger, the number of nails hammered daily, gradually dwindled. He discovered it was easier to hold his temper than to drive those nails into the fence.
Finally, the day came when the boy didn’t lose his temper at all. He told his father about it and the father suggested that the boy now pull out one nail for each day that he was able to hold his temper.
The days passed and the boy was finally able to tell his father that all the nails were gone.
The father took his son by the hand and led him to the fence. “You have done well, my son,” he said. “But look at the holes in the fence. The fence will never be the same. When you say things in anger, they leave a scar just like this one. You can put a knife in a man and draw it out. It won’t matter how many times you say I’m sorry, the wound is still there.”
One more thing…
If I’ve ever left a hole in your fence, please forgive me.
Have you been challenged to send this story to someone you’ve ever said an unkind “word” to?
“It only takes a spark, remember, to set off a forest fire.
A careless or wrongly placed word out of your mouth can do that.
By our speech—we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos;
Throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke
And go up in smoke with it, smoke right from the pit of hell.”
James 3:5-6 (MSG)
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