Words and opinions matter. Whether they’re good or bad they ultimately define us as individuals. What we say and how we present our views and opinions will directly affect the way people think and feel about us. Our choice of words will also have a huge impact on our children and the other young people that we interact with. They are more powerful than you probably think, and believe me, they’re listening to everyone – good or bad. Remember the phrase “not in front of the children?” It is still very relevant to this day.
Our character, integrity and dignity are also defined by our words, opinions and ultimately actions. I can think of many people in my life that I look up to and respect and wish I could be more like. Some I’ve known all my life; some I’ve never met. The common thread among them is their positive outlook and their use (or lack thereof) of words and opinions. There is a time to speak and a time to hold your tongue. Some things really are better left unsaid. I heard a quote a long time ago that has always stuck with me: “It’s better to be thought of ignorant, then to open your mouth and prove it.” So many people all too often prove it, many not even realizing the impact.
What you say and how you act on a daily basis is essentially who you are. You can of course rationalize it however you want, but that’s the basic truth. If you are a negative person and don’t have much good to say about anything, then that’s just who you are – whether you believe it or not – because that’s the perception you are putting out there for everyone to see on a daily basis. And vice versa, if you’re a positive person … I know which person I’d like to emulate and which person I don’t have much time for.
Don’t get me wrong; it’s easy to complain. I catch myself doing it quite often. There’s always going to be things we wish we could change. But really, complaining is not going to change anything. It just makes you look like a negative person. And I don’t think many people actually strive to be that way. The serenity prayer makes a lot of sense in this aspect. But again, easier said than done.
When someone says something to you, you and you alone are in control of your response. It can be very easy to just blurt the first thing that comes to your mind. But that might not be the most appropriate response. It may be what you really want to say, but is it appropriate? How we use that space before we respond in a conversation – or argument in some cases, is very important, and ultimately defines us as a person. That reminds me of a couple other sayings: “Choose your words carefully” and “think before you speak.” This is especially relevant now more than ever.
I think the most important words come from the people in a position of power. Be it government, corporate, educational, or religious settings. Or parents, guardians, coaches, or any other type of mentor. These are the words that will shape our everyday lives and matter the most. There is an inherent responsibility there for those individuals to choose their words wisely. Some people choose to ignore that – and that is a shame. It is an abuse of power they can get away with because of their position.
So, it all starts with words – more positive than negative and being a positive influence in your family, community, nation, or the world for that matter. It starts with each new day; it’s amazing how days add up to months and years into decades...
Erik Jacobson from Garrison is a guest columnist.