Watch Your Words

Words are like eggs dropped from great heights; you can no more call them back than ignore the mess they leave when they fall. — Jodi Picoult, American author, Salem Falls

I was only kidding, you say.
Why can’t you take a joke?
When did you lose your sense of humor?
Sorry, you can’t take hurtful words back.

You shake your head in disgust at me
(Or perhaps yourself), and you declare we just
Won’t talk at all since I’m so dumb-witted.
Sorry, you can’t take hurtful words back.

Every school kid is aware that it’s sticks
And stones that break one’s bones, not words.
But words can do more damage than splitting bones.
And you can’t take hurtful words back.

Accusations, snide remarks, outright lies
Can wound right to a person’s inner core,
Bringing tears, self-doubt, misery, and despair.
And you can’t take hurtful words back.

Words have power, longevity, and emotion.
It’s crucial we treat them with care and respect,
Not letting angry, vicious thoughts cross our tongues.
Because you can’t take hurtful words back.

When used for good, words can be uplifting,
Surrounding others with affirmation and hope,
Encouraging, praising, sustaining, loving.
But you can’t take hurtful words back.

Note: This poetic form is called a Refrain.

“Kind words are the music of the world. They have a power which seems to be beyond natural causes, as if they were some angel’s song which had lost its way and come to earth.” — Frederick William Faber, Catholic priest and English hymn writer
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20 thoughts on “Watch Your Words

  1. That’s a great quote, and you are right that words can do more harm than physical strikes. As we go though life, most learn the power of words and the amazing feeling that comes from offering words of encouragement…. but some never learn.

    • Thanks, Janna. I imagine all sensitive souls understand this innately and do their best to mind their words. You’re right, though — some never learn, bringing misery wherever they go (and delight WHEN they go, ha!)

  2. Worst of all is when we don’t mean to hurt someone, and yet do it anyway, with words we don’t realize are hurtful. That’s why forgiveness is so important. Verbal accidents aren’t all that uncommon!

    • You bring up a good point, Linda. Sometimes, we don’t mean to offend, but the other person takes it wrong; sometimes, the other person is *looking* to find offense, or is unreasonably sensitive. I guess I was referring more to cases in which someone said something that was just plain mean, without regard to another person’s feelings. Thanks for pointing out the nuances!

  3. A good reminder, Debbie, of how painful such words can be, particularly those said in jest. A former boss once said, “Think before you speak. Will what you’re going to say advance the conversation or create a roadblock?” I think her words are most fitting here.

    • Excellent advice, Monica! The Rotary Club, too, has what it refers to as a four-way test: Is it True? Is it Fair? Will it build GOOD WILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS? And will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned? It’s one thing to tease with people who know us (and know we’re teasing); it’s another to poke fun at somebody to their face, or to make hurtful comments when somebody refuses to do as we want them to. BTW, Happy Birthday soon!!

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