The Invisible Weapon

Words. We all know the power of words – we have felt the encouragement and lift of a kind one…and most likely felt the sharp sting of an unkind one.

I don’t share this lightly with you, but I do share it with a purpose. The other day a friend of mine found this note on her car after parking slightly over the white line:

When she shared it with me my jaw dropped at the bitterness and cruelty of this anonymous note. The caustic bite it drips with sent my thoughts spinning.

First, my heart breaks that there are those who choose to put this out into the world when it seems that our world needs more TLC than ever before. I won’t pretend to know another’s story, but I began wondering how many kind words or moments of compassion this person has experienced and if the lack thereof might impact how a person lives. Would more moments of compassion have changed the trajectory of events that led to leaving a note like this? I don’t know the answer and won’t as it is probably a different answer for everyone. However, I can’t find any reason why sharing compassion would be detrimental.

Secondly, I must admit my first reaction was anger. I would have liked to have left a note with a few choice words of my own for this mystery person. Yet, old wisdom I heard as a child from the movie Bambi trickled in… “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” And what, really, would come of my ‘retort’? I would only be fulfilling a circle of caustic words. Words that sting like an angry wasp; and after suffering a handful of those painful welts – in the end, I don’t wish that on anyone.

Third. So now what? What can be done when left with a bitter taste of harsh words heaped upon your head? What can be done about this note that will no doubt show up on another’s car windshield? Doesn’t this seem hopeless…? Here lies the ‘purpose’ part of sharing this note with you. While you and I may not be able to prevent these notes from appearing again nor have the opportunity to hear the story of the person who leaves them, the greatest thing we can do is choose which words (written or otherwise) we heap on others. As Dorothy Nevill put so aptly: “The real art of conversation is not only to say the right thing at the right place but to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.” Reflecting on this sparked the writing of my own note (copies of which I now keep in my car):

Words are full of power and we wield a strong sword whether our mind is fast enough to catch and shield a blow before it leaves our lips. As George Herbert expressed: “Good words are worth much, and cost little.” So at little cost to you, why not share more anonymous notes of your own?

No matter what language(s) you speak, there are a myriad of words to choose from so choose wisely. And, with the utmost respect for Thumper, I’d like to amend his adage: “If you can’t say anything nice, remember the power of a compassionate word and choose wisely.”  

-Jennifer Anderson is a Team Member of The Authenticity Project

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