And Another Thing…
Growing up, when I would talk with Grandma and have a temporary lapse of memory while saying something, she’d always respond to my “I forgot what I was going to say” with, “Well…it must have been a lie!” In my youth, I remember desperately trying to defend my integrity by insisting my lost thought most certainly was the truth. “How can you be sure? You don’t know what you were going to say,” she’d toss back. Another of her favorite sayings was: “He/she has all of their taste in their feet!” Indeed, my grandma had a way with words—a way that made people pause and consider her meaning.
My dad followed his mom’s example by adopting colorful expressions—many of which he picked up in the Navy and during a career as a truck driver. A lot of his words of wisdom—as I’m sure you can imagine—aren’t suitable to share. An exception is his infamous, “Use your head for something other than a hat rack!” Now that is solid advice.
My point is that words stick with us because they often carry emotions with them. When I replay my family’s sayings, I feel love and fondness. But the emotions of guilt, fear, and anger can hurt when heated words hit us in an argument. I’ve always told my daughters to never use the word hate, especially when referring to another person. Hate is such a strong word. I also encourage them to be careful what they say, because even if you quickly realize you misspoke and try to take your words back, the feelings you’ve inflicted can’t be reversed. “The babble of some people is like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise is healing” (Proverbs 12:18). Although one may readily accept an apology for having been the target of verbal cruelty, the emotion attached to the arrow’s tip has already pierced the heart.
I’ve often wondered whether Grandma’s quip about a forgotten statement being a lie was swathed in profound meaning. She might’ve been saying brief forgetfulness was a way for our minds to protect us from speaking without forethought. Thoughtful communication is one instance when the adage “actions speak louder than words” is untrue. “Worry weighs down the heart, but a kind word gives it joy” (Proverbs 12:25).
Elizabeth A. Herzing