I'm sure this is not a new trend, but it is one that has become increasingly irksome to me recently. And what is so irksome? When wives speak poorly of their husbands and when parents speak poorly of their children. First let me tell you what I am not speaking of. I am not speaking of when two friends are talking and sharing their struggles together and encouraging one another. I am speaking of idle conversation, small talk, when a parent will say something along the lines of, "Ugh! My teenagers are so obnoxious these days, I can't wait until they leave to go to college!" Or a wife will say, "I can't let my husband do _______ (fill in the blank). He never does it right." I could go on and on with examples, but I'm sure you get the type of comments I mean.
So what is wrong with this? Doesn't everyone know it's an exaggeration or meant in fun, not to be taken seriously? While the overt statement might be seen as frivolous, the underlying message is anything but. Words are powerful things. I'm sure everyone can remember a time or two from their childhood when a hurtful thing was said to them or about them. These are the comments which are etched, as if with acid, into our memories. Sometimes the speaker might not have even meant to hurt, but the result was hurtful all the same. Whether the wife or parent means something in a joking matter, they have no control over how the hearer perceives it. Would you want to hear how your parents can't wait until you move out? Would you like to hear how you are not capable of anything? What do you want to overhear others saying about you?
And that is how we should view everything that comes out of our mouths. How would the person I am talking about feel if they heard this? I can recall too many times I spoke too quickly or without thought and wished I could pull the words back into my mouth. We all know how impossible that is. We are often reminded to not speak ill of people outside our families, but I want to make a plea for not speaking ill of those within our families. These relationships are too important to take lightly.
How people believe they are perceived by others has an impact on how they view themselves. How much better for a child to overhear her parents telling another about how helpful she is. Or a husband to hear his wife bragging about his positive qualities. What a blessing it would be for those overhearing these messages. And since belief tends to follow action, the more you say these things about your loved ones, the more it will become a mental image of that person for you.
Words have great power, be careful how you use them.
I have a guest post up at Money Saving Mom on family scheduling with young adults. I just can't bring myself to use that "T"-word.