I love a good pen. Have for as long as I can remember. And if I have to go into an office supply store for anything, I inevitably end up on the pen aisle. Inspecting...admiring...and yes, sometimes even prying the cardboard & plastic apart just so I can write with one in its own cardboard box to try it out.
For me, there's something real and clarifying about the ability to write. Creating words and choosing what to say can be very powerful. And because of that, it comes with a great responsibility.
I just recently read an article about "quality writing instruments", and it had a quote from the CEO of the iconic Mont-Blanc pen company. He was talking about old-school "fountain pens", the kind with a sharp, wedge shape point, and he said:
"A fountain pen slows you down...makes you think intensely because you can't conveniently delete."
That is so very, very true. He summed up in just a few words how words themselves carry impact and magnitude. And when writing with an instrument that doesn't erase, the nanosecond an ink molecule touches paper, then you're committed. You're all in.
And I immediately realized how desperately I need to apply that to every single waking moment of my life.
We have a long standing rule in my house that our kids can't watch commercials on TV. The miracle of the DVR has really made that possible. We approve their shows based on content, and our children know that it's best to watch something AFTER its recorded, because they can zoom through the commercials instead of waiting. Why?
The answer is so very critical to us as a people:
You can't un-see or un-hear what you've seen or heard.
Our minds start out pure. When we're born, God gives us a brain that's a clean slate. And everything we see and hear is written on it....but not with chalk. With permanent marker. And so we really, really try to monitor what they see and hear.
More importantly, what we say to our loved ones (and anyone else, for that matter) DOES matter. We better consider every syllable and uttered phrase, because WE CAN'T CONVENIENTLY DELETE WHAT WE'VE JUST SAID.
A good friend of mine who's a brilliant pastor and teacher once told me: "There are no failing words." His point was that whenever we speak, those sounds leave our heads, enter open air, and will eventually find purchase somewhere. They all land. Sometimes they plant and sprout gloriously…but they can also land with a thud or crash through a wall.
Those ones you hold dearest and say you would gladly die for? The people you proclaim are the "most important in your life"? Remember this each and every time you speak: Your words have the ability to lift them up...to give them energy when their supply is depleted...and can give them self-worth. But they can also beat them down and crush them.
The saddest part for all of us is that as part of our fallen human nature our built in reflex isn't to praise – it's to criticize. Without constant vigilance, we will inevitably and habitually injure those closest to us. The ones who love us the most? We will take them the most for granted. And if they're not deliberately and constantly watched, your careless words will fall out of your mouth...float into their ears...and can irrevocably scar their hearts.
Heartbreakingly, hindsight is 20/20. I can only write these words because I'm looking in the mirror. As I look back at my life, my biggest regrets are things I wish I hadn't said or done. As much as I wish that I could, I can't change what has happened. But I can confess, work to make it right and strive to be better today.
Slow down. Think intensely. Consider the impact of your words. Because we can't just conveniently delete them.
There are no floating words. Let yours plant deep healthy roots that flower into something fragrant.
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