Yesterday was hard. Tomorrow is not guaranteed. In my quest to achieve a better today (all that each of us truly has anyway), I’ve been delving into the root causes of some my habitual behaviors.
Those patterns of relating that are borne of the intersection of nature, nature, and inclination.
What I’m finding is sobering.
I’m finding that seemingly innocuous, well-meaning words have the power to shape the course of a life.
Don’t believe me?
Consider this: as a small child, when I got a scrape, a bruise, a “boo-boo,” in an effort (I suppose) to toughen me up, I was told to say “I’m alright.”
Thing is, scrapes hurt. There wasn’t the “Are you okay?” Rather, I heard “You’re alright.”
Repeat something enough times, and it gets internalized. Becomes a part of our inner monologue.
So it was, on a visit to my grandmother’s house, and while playing hide-and-seek, I fell through the well cover. Did I cry out “Help?” Or “Help me?”
Louder and louder I shrieked “I’m alright! I’M ALRIGHT!!! I’M ALRIGHT!!!!”
But of course I wasn’t–I was a small boy on the verge of falling into a well, with the very real possibility of drowning. Fortunately, my grandmother found me, and kept me from falling down the well.
“I’m alright” became my modus operandi, my life philosophy. Even when, especially when, things were most decidedly not alright. Here’s the thing: rather than toughen me up, prepare for the harsh realities of life, this little phrase served instead to crush whatever empathy my burgeoning soul possessed.
To this day, I have to work at feeling with, and for, someone. Because they, too, are alright.
Even when they’re not.
And that is the big power of little words.
God help me.