Words are our main tools of communication. Just like how every single thing we utter can bring positivity, it can equally cause someone pain should we deem them to do so. Are we really aware of the weight of our words? In this episode, Dr. Kim Grimes explores how our words, both spoken and unspoken, can elevate a person’s feelings – or bring them to devastation. She explains how words can be similar to forest fires that cause destruction if not controlled the right way. Dr. Kim also opens up about the one incident that taught her to be careful with her words, revealed her true identity, and made her an emotional wellness life coach.
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The Weight Of Your Words
Words cannot express my gratitude for the support. It has been off the chain. Thank you so much. Your time is precious and to spend your time with us, we are so honored and so humbly grateful. You know how we do things around here. For your new guys who are just joining or tuning in to my show, instead of having one guest discuss one topic, we bring on multiple guests to discuss the same topic. Remember, we do this for diversity, point-blank. There is so much noise going on in our world and everyone has an opinion.
Therefore, we come up with a topic and we invite our guests to come and discuss it, the same topic from different perspectives, because one person’s perspective or situation may align with yours. If it does, we want to provide you with support in some form or fashion in some way. In our last couple of episodes, we discussed a great topic on how can you live with yourself. This topic generated amazing conversations with our guests. We were blessed with six different amazing individuals who brought their different perspectives on the topic.
With Dr. Phyllis Hayes-Reams, we talked about how can you live with yourself and how to find redemption and start being present in life. With Dr. Karen Bradford, it was how to guard yourself to live with yourself. Neena Perez, we talked about overcoming shame, a path to self-acceptance, and being you unapologetically, we had some heavy hitters. With Eric Ampadu, we talked about what it takes to live with yourself with integrity and fulfillment. With Dr. Joseph Umidi, it was about how can you live with yourself by being in alignment with your inner self. With Professor Keith Rieger we talked about living with yourself. How can you live with yourself and discover your best self with marketing?
We had a phenomenal time in the last few episodes, but we want to take a moment right now to thank all of our show guests who took the time to come and share their perspectives on the numerous topics that we had. I want to say a special thanks to all of our guests from the last few episodes that we released. No doubt we are changing lives here at YAYU, and it could not happen without your support as an audience, as well as each of our guests.
I’m doing this episode solo because it’s about that time. I bet you’re wondering, what am I talking about? It’s about time to introduce a new topic for us to discuss on YAYU. As I said, over the last couple of weeks, we had that one topic. For the next several episodes, the next couple of weeks, we’re going to lean in and address something that every audience, every person who’s tuning in to our show, you all will be able to relate with. We all stumble in some form or way.
I don’t believe there are any exceptions to this statement. What am I saying is this, we all have screwed up. We all messed up. There’s all kinds of stuff and things that we’ve all done wrong. Wouldn’t you agree? Just like doing things wrong, messing up, and stumbling, we each have said something out of our mouth that inflicts damage, that hurts someone, that causes someone pain.
When you are never at fault, when you don’t see the things that you say or the things that you do, I just want you to know that that’s what we say is perfect, and I haven’t met a perfect person yet. I haven’t met one, but I know one as a Jesus follower, I’m just saying. If you’re never at fault for the things you say or do, you are saying that you’re perfect. Let’s talk about words. Let’s talk about my words. Let’s talk about your words. Let’s talk about words that are said to us and words that we say to others.
I’m telling you this topic is something everyone tuning in can relate to this. My mouth, your mouth, our mouths have the potential to inflict pain, inflict damage, inflict hurt on people. It can inflict damage on every single person we know and every single person that crosses our path. My mouth and your mouth can be our greatest potential to build other people up, and it’s also can be our greatest weapon to tear people down. We each have the potential to inflict damage, like I said, pain to inflict pain in people’s lives with our words. I’m not asking you to raise your hand. I’m not asking you to stand up to say, “Yes, I did it,” because I believe none of us are exempt from this.
More Damaging Than Physical Damage
This may not always be the case, but in some cases, word damage can be way worse than physical damage. For example, if you slam my hand in your car door, I am 99.99% sure that it was an accident. I’m going to immediately assume that you didn’t mean to slam my hand in your car door. When we use our mouths to inflict damage on people by the words we say, the harmful words that were said to me, I am not so convinced you didn’t mean what you just said to me. You may not have intended for those words to come out but they came out, or you may not have intended for those words to come out the way that they came out, the way they did, but they came out, which means they were in there.
What I mean is they were in there in your heart. You were thinking about it. Why shouldn’t I assume that they’re still in there? Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. When I talk about the heart, I’m doing this because when you say the word heart, you may think of your physical heart. I also think our minds as well. Let me say that again. Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. Have you ever heard of that before? That’s some wisdom right there.
Do me a favor, google it, and find out who said it. I’m not convinced that I didn’t just learn something about the way you see me because of the words that you said to me. The way that you value me or the way that you just don’t respect me. I’m not convinced that I just learned this. This is a big deal. Let me share with you why it’s a big deal. When it comes to strangers, first-time acquaintances, or people we do not know, what do you say to them? Do you watch your words?
When it comes to our more intimate relationships, like your family relationships with your children, your relatives, the people that you love, those you would consider your best friends or in your inner circle. What do you say to them? Do you watch your words? Words are very powerful. Our discussion is on just how powerful words are and how you know they’re powerful. Look at the results. The question is, how do you use your words?
We know that the more intimate the relationship, the heavier the words can become and the greater their capacity to wound and leave a mark or a scar. Even words left unsaid, unsaid words, unsaid phrases, have the potential to impact the trajectory of a person’s life. I have witnessed youth, college students, single adults, and adults with children in tears because of a phrase they never heard their father say or a statement they never heard their mother say.
How Heavy Are Your Words?
Words that they would have given anything to hear, such as, “I love you. I’m so proud of you. Great job. You are so important to me. You are valuable. You matter and I appreciate you.” Words such as, “Thank you. I’m sorry. Please forgive me.” Unspoken words have just as much impact as spoken words on our lives. My point is simple. Words carry weight. This leads me to ask another question, how heavy are your words?
For those who are not familiar with the Bible, Ephesians is a book in the Bible. It’s in the New Testament. Ephesians 4:29 states, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouth, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” There’s a book in the Bible in the Old Testament called Proverbs. You’ll find that Proverbs 18:21 says, “Life and death are in the power of the tongue.” James 1:19 says, “Remember this, my dear brothers and sisters. Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and should not get easily angry.”
James also said, “The tongue, it’s an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.” He said in 3:7-8, “Humankind can tame beasts, birds, reptiles, and creation in the sea, yet we cannot tame our own tongue.” No man and woman can tame the tongue. James describes the human tongue as an unruly evil that is full of deadly poison. We use our mouth in conjunction with our tongue to create or to speak words. Since the beginning of creation, our lives have been shaped by words spoken to us, over us, at us, and about us. Words spoken and unspoken shape our childhood. It’s shaped who we are from our childhood. They shaped, built, and undermined relationships. They destroyed and rebuilt marriages.
Words spoken to us, at us, and over us have impacted our confidence so much so that they determined, to some extent, who we see in the mirror. That’s what they do. How heavy were the words spoken to you? How heavy are the words you speak? Think about it. Have you ever been crushed by someone’s words? If so, then you understand what I’m talking about because none of us are exempt. We have all been injured or crushed in some way by the words of other people. Again, words carry weight. Words, spoken and unspoken, leave a mark for good and can leave a mark potentially for bad. Words build and destroy, and also discourage, and inspire. Sometimes words wound our lives, mine included.Words spoken and unspoken leave marks for good or potentially for bad. Click To Tweet
We all have been shaped, to some extent, by the words spoken to us, at us, over us, and about us. My life, your life, and our lives have been shaped by words that people said to us. Our lives, in some cases, have been shaped by words we didn’t hear or they didn’t hear, words that we want to hear that we need to hear, but we never heard. Here’s the thing, we are all quick to recognize the power that other people’s words have had over us in our lives. We are very quick to recognize that, but we are often very slow to recognize or admit the fact that the words that we speak, spoken and unspoken, have equal power in the lives of other people.
It isn’t easy to admit you’ve been impacted by other people’s words, and it’s not easy to admit that people have been impacted by yours. Again, we’re quick to remember the exact words. We can probably tell you the time of the day or the day of the week when someone said something, especially hurtful words to you. When it comes to you, when it comes to me, the words we say, we make excuses such as, “That’s just who I am. I’m being honest. My words are just that. They don’t even weigh that much.” Really? Nothing can be further from the truth.
Consequently, we don’t want to be honest about the fact that we use our words irresponsibly. We don’t want to be honest with that. We’ll all say, “Not on purpose,” but that’s not true either. We are irresponsible with our words because we don’t want to understand or realize, or we want to recognize nor embrace the fact that words carry weight and words are not equally weighted either. Negative words weigh way more than positive words. The study has been done in marketplace relationships, which tells us that we need to hear 5 to 9 positive words to counter violence and 1 negative word.
In relationships, in a marriage, in intimate relationships with your kids, with your parents, with your brothers, your siblings, even with your best friend, I believe it’s not 5 to 9. It is probably 25 to 30 positive words to counterbalance 1 negative word that we say to our loved one. What negative words are you saying to those around you, especially to those whom you say you love? Here’s another point about words we must ponder. The source of the words determines the weight. When we’re in a conversation, even more so with those we love and who love us, we must remember who we are and what we represent to that person on the other side.
The Source Of Your Words
That means you’ve got to think about who I am and what I represent to this person or to that person on the other side of me. What people hear and what they feel, regardless of what we think we’re saying, can and will do major damage to the lives of others. We’re all going to get it wrong. When we get it wrong, our intent becomes irrelevant. Your words, my words, and our words carry weight, and they are not equally weighted. They carry more weight than you and I think especially and specifically in relationships. Parents and children, husband and wife, boss and employees, best friends, people who are close to us, people we say we love, and who say they love us.
The fact is, we know words have the potential to destroy as well as build and undermine as well as inspire. All of us should take that into consideration because we all know that. We’ve been impacted by the words of other people. We all must recognize that we must be good stewards and be careful with our words, especially if you are a human being who cares about others or if you are a person like me, I’m a Jesus follower, including a human being.
What is the weight of our words? What are they doing to other people? What is the weight of your words doing people, especially those you claim you love? Are your words leaving marks and creating unforgivable wounds that take years to heal? Are they building or destroying? What results are your words producing? What is the weight of your words? Are they producing positive or having positive or negative outcomes? For me, the weight of my words caused me to miss out on an important relationship in my life for at least five years, my relationship with my goddaughter.
One day, I tore into her so badly that my husband had to hold me back and keep me from laying my hands on her. That’s how out of the frame I was. In no way am I justifying my behavior. Point-blank, I was dead wrong but I didn’t see my fault. I didn’t see it then that I was wrong. Not for a second that I see it. In my mind, I was right and I felt it was her fault. I felt she deserved every word I said to her because that’s where I was. I’m a quick-witted person. My husband says, “You are quick with your mouth,” and I am. With my tongue, I’m quick.
There’s nothing she could have said to me to make me see my wrong. I blamed her because that’s how I felt. I blamed her because it was her fault. Since it was her fault, she felt my wrath. To be honest, for a while, I did not even care, not one iota. As time goes by, we want to forget how we showed up, what we said, and what we did.
The reality is you can’t wish it away because it won’t go away, nor can you forget it. Your true self will remind you of it. You may act like you have forgotten, but that’s not the real truth. You didn’t forget about it. How do I know this? Every time someone hurt me, I didn’t forget. The same applies to you. You don’t forget. We don’t forget. Every time someone hurts you, you don’t forget. We can’t forget. Our human nature will not allow us to forget even when we act like we have amnesia. Sometimes we show up like that.
I don’t know what you do or have done to resolve similar situations in your life, but allow me to share what I did. It did not happen overnight. It took years. I’m not saying for you to allow years to go by. It took some years for me to see that I was wrong. The incident came up again and again, especially when I decided to invest in my well-being, my wellness. I start seeing this incident more and more when I started to do some self-work on me and emotional wellness work. Remember, I’m an emotional life coach, this is what I do. I work with youth and young adults and adults, and I help them to manage their emotions. I help them to put words to their feelings and their thoughts.
I help people to be who they were created to be, unapologetically. This incident right here is what put me on the path to becoming an emotional wellness life coach. When I started the process of emotional wellness, I had to peel back what I call guck, hurt, and pain. To begin to identify who I am, I had to do the work. I began to uncover the times in my life when I showed up, inflicting hurt and pain on others.
The incident with my goddaughter showed up clearly. It was staring me in my face. I had to look at it. When you take the time to look at yourself and turn over those rocks, those stones, and those things, and throw back the rug, you will begin to see all those things that you do not want to face, all the things that you blamed others for by shifting blame from you to them.
I’m not alone on this. Shifting the blame is the easy part. Acknowledging you were wrong and owning how you show up, that’s the hard part. In previous episodes, I spoke about the work I did on myself. It is the work that I did on me that helped me to uncover my greatness. That is why I know I’m great. I did the work and no one can tell me differently. Not only know I’m great, I believe each and every one of us is great. In my search for my identity, I found my true self, my true identity.
It was that identity that stared me square in my face, look me square in my eyes, and would not allow me to go on blaming others for my behavior and just saying anything out my mouth. It would not allow me to do that. My words have consequences. Your words have consequences. When they inflict hurt and pain on others, it will impact their lives. Think about it.
Like A Forest Fire
Think about a forest fire. We’ve seen over the past long years in California and on the West Coast, those forest fires were set by a small spark. Tens of thousands of acres and neighborhoods burned. Lives have been threatened and lost. Property damage was in the billions of dollars because of a single spark, an act of irresponsibility, or just some freak nature.
Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. Your mouth, my mouth, your tongue, my tongue. Allow me to personalize this, my tongue is a spark. Your tongue is a spark. My words and your words have the potential to be that spark that burned down relationships, marriages, a life, a child, someone’s self-esteem, or someone’s confidence. We know this because we had other people’s fire inflicted on us.
The real danger of a fire is that it spreads quickly if it’s not isolated. It may start small, but we all know it doesn’t stay small. A few words have the potential to create a great deal of harm. There are two things you can do with an unintentional fire. You can either try to contain or extinguish it. When it comes to the fire, we start with our mouths and tongues in other people. We lie with the words that we say. Our natural inclination is to attempt to contain it by explaining ourselves. We try to explain our behavior, but explaining it is not containing it. It spreads the fire even more, and you know this because somebody’s hurt and somebody hurt you with their words.
When they circled back around and tried to explain it, it didn’t help. Instead, it irritated you. It reminded you that they don’t even understand the damage that they have done when they said what they said. Even more, trying to explain words that they inflict on you only makes things worse. The fire is not contained. Instead, it spreads. Again, it’s an omission that you don’t understand the damage that you caused with your words because you’re trying to explain it. It makes it worse. When I give an explanation behind my hurtful words, it elevates me, not the person that I hurt.
Don’t explain it in an attempt to contain the fire that you cause because it’s only going to increase the pain. That’s just not the way to move forward. Especially for those who are Jesus followers like me, the goal is to extinguish the fire and put it out. While doing self-work on my journey to find my identity, I learned word fires are extinguished with two things and neither of these things come naturally.
For some of us, it’s even harder because they don’t come naturally. It requires effort and commitment. It is not intuitive because we are innately selfish beings, and we want to be right. It’s not intuitive. I want to be right when I know I’m wrong and I want to be understood in my wrongness. You want to be right as well, and you want to come out looking okay. I know I do.Words can spread like forest fires. They can only be extinguished with two things that don’t come naturally to every person: effort and commitment. Click To Tweet
Want to know how to extinguish the fire? We start with our words. Word fires are like any relational conflict. They’re extinguished with a ginormous dose of humility and sensitivity. That’s how you begin to extinguish the fire. Humility elevates the other person. Humility means, “I’m going to submit myself to you. I’m going to put you and your interests and your well-being ahead of my own, even if it costs me.” Humility is taking full responsibility for your words, of your behavior, and owning how you show up. It’s humility along with sensitivity.
Explaining or trying to give an explanation is insensitive. That is why it makes it worse. Again, explaining is an admission that you don’t understand the damage you cause with your words. I don’t understand the damage that I cause with my words. We make it worse because of an explanation. The explanation elevates us. It elevates the perpetrator because I want to be understood. “I want you to not misjudge my actions. I’ve taken something from you with my words. I want you to understand me. I want you to understand where I’m coming from. I want you to know my real intent.” In reality, I’m suddenly making it all about me. That’s what I’m doing.
Extinguishing The Fire
“I’ve hurt you. It’s completely irrelevant, I’m trying to get you to understand why.” That is extraordinarily insensitive. Insensitive words require sensitivity. We need sensitivity to empower a person to move beyond the insensitivity and hurt that we inflict on them with our words to move beyond the spark that caused the fire and the explanation that caused it to spread. You need humility and sensitivity. That’s what we need. That’s how you begin to extinguish the fire. Humility elevates the other person. We need it. We need sensitivity. What does it look like? What does it sound like to extinguish a word fire?
Are you ready for it? Let me give you an example of what it looks like. “I’m sorry.” Don’t say anything after that because anything you say after that sounds like an excuse or an explanation. If you have to say something else, rinse and repeat. Say it again, “I’m sorry.” If you have to say something else, then say, “There’s no excuse for what I said. I’m sorry. You don’t deserve that.” You sit in your guilt while they sit in their hurt. Please don’t try to take charge of the restoration process. Don’t do that because if you do, I’m telling you it’s a huge mistake.
It will backfire because restoration is not up to you at that moment. It’s not up to me after I’ve already inflicted pain. The restoration process is up to the person who was just damaged by my words, by your words. You did the damage, you must allow them to choose the speed and the method of recovery. We have to give them grace. We have to give them space and time to allow them to heal and recover. More importantly, don’t try to tell them how bad you feel. That too is irritating and irrelevant. You have made them feel awful. Therefore, it doesn’t matter how bad you or I feel. Saying how I feel or saying how you feel is like making a request for empathy from them in their hurt.
You are saying, “Would you please feel sorry for me? I realized I devastated you with my words. I cut you with my words and now feel bad for me. Please give me some empathy.” As the perpetrator, you are the one, I’m the one, that caused the problem. I started that fire. I sparked it. I am not in a position to ask for anything, not even a hug. We are not in a position to ask for anything. We need to begin creating a space for them to determine when and how to move back in your direction. That’s what we need to do. This is what it looks like to be others first when we screwed up with our words and when we sparked the fire with our words.
I’m going to say I’m sorry and nothing else. I’m going to elevate that person. I’m going to give them some space. I’m going to let them know and allow them to set the pace for restoration. I’m not going to ask for anything from you. Instead, I’m just going to submit myself to you. Take a moment and remember who we are and who we represent to the person on the other side of us. Remember humility and sensitivity. Let them choose if and when they will forgive. That is how you extinguish a word fire. That’s what it looks like.
Every time we speak, our words have the potential to betray, hurt, and damage. Remember, three dynamics are always in play. Words aren’t equally weighted. Negative words weigh way more than positive words. The source determines the weight. That means you have to think about who I am and what I do. I represent the person on the other side. What do I do? How do I represent that person on the other side of me? For my goddaughter, I was her godmother. Need I say more? These three things determine what people hear and what they feel, regardless of what we think we’re saying.
We’re going to get it wrong. When we get it wrong, don’t try to contain it. Decide, “I’m going to humble myself. I’m going to extinguish it.” Extinguishing it is the quickest way to bring back relational wholeness. I’m happy to share that my goddaughter and I are in a restored, happy, loving relationship because I own my role. I own my part. I took responsibility for my actions and how I showed up that awful day when I started that fire with my tongue and it spread for a few years.
I have to ask. Is there anybody at home who has been crushed by your words? Is there anybody in your community, in your neighborhood, on your block, or at work? Maybe a loved one, a friend, a friend of a friend, your children, one of your children’s friends, your husband, or your spouse. Maybe your parents were crushed by that stupid thing that was said and then you went into an explanation. Is there anybody who has been crushed by your words? Is there a fire that you started and are attempting to contain by explaining? What you need to do is step back and extinguish it.
The good news is this. Even though our tongue is so dangerous, it is also a tool that can bring about good about life if you choose it that way. If you bring a big dose of humility and sensitivity back into the relationships that you’re in, they will be extraordinarily healing to those who have been hurt by you. This is good advice for everyone. If you are a Jesus follower, this is what love sounds like. This is what love does.The tongue is a tool that can bring about good if you choose to use it that way. Click To Tweet
Remember I shared with you James 1:19. He said, “Remember this, my dear brothers and sisters. Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and should not get angry easily.” He also said, “The tongue is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.” We can spew deadly poison all over the place. Humankind can tame beasts. We can tame birds, reptiles, and the creation of the sea. We can catch fish. Yet we cannot tame our own tongue. Scripture says, no man or woman can do it. The human tongue is an unruly evil that is full of deadly poison. We use our tongue in conjunction with our mouth and we speak words.
In the words of Paul, “Do not let any unwholesome words, any hurtful words come out of your mouth, but only words that are good for building others up according to their needs it may benefit everyone who hears.” Why? Your words carry weight. My words carry weight. What is the weight of your words producing? That’s the question I want to leave you in. Join me on our next episode where we will lean in even more in our discussion with our guests about the weight of words. That’s it for now. Thank you for being here with me. I appreciate it. I’ll see you soon. Bye for now.