In the blink of an eye, I was thoroughly perplexed when my oldest became agitated with his cousin. All had been so peaceful, so almost perfect. When I suddenly heard the dreaded four letter word growled by my oldest and repeated by the pack... Hate. I thought of what I had heard other parents say to their children when they cursed or used inappropriate words. Surely, there had to be a better way than, "If you say that word again, I'm going to wash your mouth out with soap!" I wanted my children to choose a better way because they understood, not because they were following blindly out of fear.
At that moment I stood, slowly walked over to a hushed and expectant group. I began explaining to toddlers and preschoolers why that word was not to be used. Well, the cousins ran off to their parents, and my daughter fell quickly to sleep on my lap. This lesson apparently was just for me and my boy.
My son and I sat beside each other on that cement step as the stars began to twinkle. I was mulling how to explain to such a little one why some words just shouldn't be used. I can only guess that he was thinking, but it may have been "the more time that went by, the less likely he was going to be in trouble for hurting his cousin..."
I finally settled on the simplest answer I could give. This is what I told him.
"Some words, like Hate, are dirty. They make our mouths unclean and then little boys can't give kisses to their Momma's. So, you see son, we need to be careful what words we use. A word like Hate, well, its the same as the curse words. They make our kisses dirty and are hearts hurt."
It was enough for my pre-schooler. He swiped a few times at his lips with the back of his little hand; even going so far as to brushing his teeth. Then with big eyes, he looked up at me and said, "Momma, my mouth's clean now, can I have a kiss?"
I raised my children with this truth. We started out slow, with words like hurt and dirty. We progressed as they grew to more defining words such as negative, judgmental, and cruel. But the basic example of that night still held true. Our words can and do impact our love. They can create and magnify love, or they can rip away and cause untold suffering and pain.
Our words can hurt others and our selves so terribly. They can leave scars and sickness inside so deep that we forget they are there. The act of speaking words of hurt, does not only pain the one we speak to, but creates the same scarring inside ourselves. We act out those pains, scars and hurts by hurting others before they hurt us, we carry the weight of those words and our relationships reflect our pain.
I taught my children that a small word of praise, encouragement or simple kindness can do just as much wondrous good for everyone. It simply HEALS. Simply being kind was the religion my children were raised in. And it simply is what brings love light and laughter to our days.
So, today, if you find words of anger or judgement flowing forward, wipe the back of your hand across your lips and choose to smile instead.....