“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

How often have you heard or said that age-old nursery rhyme—to yourself or someone you care about? Probably more times than you can remember. And while it has good intentions, the reality is it couldn’t be further from the truth…

Words have tremendous power. They can hurt, and they can heal. They can tear down someone’s world or build it up.

Thanks in part to broadened lines of communication (like social media and text messaging), people are more likely than ever to rip each other apart with hurtful words (as they hide behind the veil of technology.)

If that wasn’t bad enough, we are the masters of getting in our own way. Yes, it may seem like the world is out to get us, but we’ve got enough going on under the hood to take ourselves out of the game with self-sabotaging negative thoughts (i.e., inner dialogue) and harsh speech toward others.

In his seminal book The Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz urges readers to be impeccable with your word:

  • Speak with integrity.
  • Say only what you mean.
  • Avoid using words to speak against yourself or to gossip about others.
  • Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.

Your words have the power to both create and destroy. The words we choose build our own reality and the reality of those around us. Be thoughtful about what you say. You have great power in your speech that can unleash a forceful fury that can create, tear down, build, heal, or hurt.

Every time you open your mouth is an opportunity to stay true to yourself and what you value…or an opportunity to stray from that path. It is up to you whether the self-fulfilling prophecies you articulate become a delight or a dungeon—for yourself and for others around you.

As yourself…

  • How do I speak to myself and others?
  • In what way is my speech positive and encouraging?
  • In what ways do I have a hard time controlling my tongue?
  • How do others speak to you? Are there people around you who gossip and speak negatively about others? Who are the encouraging people who lift you and others up?
  • Think of an area of life you tend to complain about or speak negatively of. Challenge yourself to find a way to express gratitude every time you are tempted to complain