As a kid I heard the phrase “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

I know it is meant to be empowering, but words do hurt. Of course we want our values and self-confidence to shield us from any hurtful words that come our way, but I don’t know many people who block it out completely. In theory it is an awesome declaration to say that another’s words can’t diminish one’s self-worth.

Here’s the thing, words matter. Words can tear someone down or build someone up. By saying the words of another don’t matter I think we have perhaps lessened the importance of even the good words. Maybe in our determination to not listen to the negative, we’ve tuned out the positive as well. This occurred to me in phases over recent weeks. On Mother’s Day as I read the sweet words on handmade cards from my son. Words that told me I was the best momma,  Words that told me I was loved. Words I need to hear. More importantly, words I need to believe. Why is it that sometimes that’s hard to do? He surely meant the words he worked so hard to write.

Why is it that I let my self-doubt tune out such goodness? I don’t know about anyone else, but that little voice in my head can be a real bitch sometimes. I need to shhh that voice and really hear the words. Since the good words seem to come to me in whispers and the less pleasant ones are loud and persistent, this listening will take some effort and practice. When my son says I’m beautiful I will try harder to see what he sees. When a boss tells me I’m her Mary Poppins I won’t just laugh it off. When I’m told I’m a rock star volunteer, I will feel appreciated. When people say they miss reading posts on this blog when I’m absent, I will get back to the keyboard. And with each whisper that I allow myself to hear, I will be grateful.

Think about how desperately you want those you love to truly hear the truth you speak about them.  When our praise and love are doubted we wish they could see what we see. The same is true in reverse. The people who matter in your life aren’t saying nice things for the sake of hearing themselves. They are speaking the truth. You are a hard worker, you are important, you are talented, you are valued, and you are so much more than you give yourself credit for.

By all means, build some armor that blocks out the negative shatter. Quiet that evil inner voice. But be careful to not block out the good stuff too. Graciously take the compliments. Accept the gratitude. Hear the love in your child’s words. Let it fill your ears and your soul.

Use your own words wisely. Use your voice for praise. Let your eyes see the best in people and your words proclaim it. Remember, you may have to repeat yourself until they truly hear you. Make note that silence can hurt as much as the sticks and stones. Make no assumptions that those you love know how you feel. It is in that silence that the inner voice speaks the loudest.