I’ve read several articles on bullying this week. It’s a hot topic right now and people who are being bullied are beginning to speak about their experiences. Bullying comes in so many different forms, from verbal to the physical, and its reach is now extended through the internet and other forms of media. What I like about these articles is how much support the bullied person receives from their family and community. By speaking about their experience, the person being bullied takes back their power. Silence gives power away. While bullies intentionally set out to hurt others with their words, many of us unintentionally use our words that do harm to both ourselves and others. Our words are important. Words have power. Use them carefully.
When I read the book The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz many years ago, I became intrigued with the first agreement, “Be Impeccable with Your Word”. My eyes were opened to the many ways we use our words and the effect they had, not only to others but to ourselves. He writes, “The first agreement is the most important one and also the most difficult one to honor.” Humans are the only species who have the ability to form sounds into words that have meaning. Our language has evolved many times over the years. Today, there are new words, old words and phrases with new meanings, and an entirely new system of communicating them, through texting and the internet. What makes it so difficult for us to use our words with integrity, to support ourselves and others? Think about it. How many times during the day do we use words negatively? How many times do we say something that we really don’t mean? If we were to use our words carefully, to stay within our lines of integrity, how would our life look different?
I’ve noticed a change in myself over the past couple of weeks. I am always monitoring my emotional state and pay attention to whether or not I am staying in line with what is important to me. I’ve been watching my words and actions lately and see that I am not being true to my values. I am impatient and intolerant of people and situations. I hear myself complaining about other people to my co-workers. I feel myself getting angry over little things that would normally not bother me and taking it out on the people I love. I feel how my words are changing me. Don Miguel Ruiz writes, “But like a sword with two edges, your word can create the most beautiful dream, or your word can destroy everything around you. One edge is the misuse of the word, which creates a living hell. The other edge is the impeccability of the word, which will only create beauty, love, and heaven on earth.” My negative words are creating a living hell for me, and although my words about others may not be heard by them directly, they are still affecting them by adding to the overall negativity in the environment. It is a poison that creeps into all, often without their knowledge. My words can then become a part of their beliefs and change their words. It is a cycle that has far reaching effects.
One of the ways the poison spreads is through gossip which is rampant in my workplace and I suspect many others. Many times throughout the day I will hear someone saying something negative about someone else. Lately, I find myself listening in and making my own set of judgments about the situation. It has been easier for me to join in, even if I am only listening, instead of maintaining my integrity and staying away from it. I’d like to mention right here that none of this is meant to be a criticism of myself or others. I think that everything can be used as an opportunity for learning. By honestly looking at my actions and seeing them for what they are, I am able to come up with a plan for change. As Dr. Phil would say, “You can’t change what you don’t acknowledge”. I saw a postcard on the PostSecret site today that read, “I have come to believe that I want to be a better person in life. Today I am going to start”. I’d like to thank the person who sent that in. It was helpful for me to read that.
In my dementia training I teach a session on caring for the caregiver. I tell my students that it is important for each person to know what their burnout looks like. There are symptoms that lead up to a full blown burnout, signs that show up over time. It doesn’t just happen overnight. I have watched this carefully with myself over the years and know what my symptoms are, what to look out for, when I’m heading towards burnout. I am seeing those symptoms now. Working with a challenging population in the medical and social work fields is a recipe for burnout. One of the reasons that I’ve been able to continue my work over an extended period of time is that I practice good self-care. I recognize my symptoms and take action to stop the forward progression towards burnout. Thankfully, I am taking a long weekend soon to get away from it all. (I can’t wait, Springy!) During that time, I am going to relax, practice self-care, and do some meditation to help re-center myself. After that, I have a plan in place to reduce stress throughout the week. Upkeep is important when it comes to maintaining a healthy balance in your life, but let’s face it, sometimes we get busy and let our guards down. When that happens, recognize it and get yourself back on track.
We all suffer from stress in our lives. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t. What matters is our level of awareness about it and our ability to take care of ourselves better so it has less of an effect on us. A good practice is to begin looking at your words and how you use them. My words are a litmus test for the rest of my life, a picture of my internal state. Are you speaking from a place of integrity or are your words more of a poison towards yourself and others? Take some time this week to pay attention to what you are saying. Learn to use your words to reflect the person that you truly are. Practice monitoring your emotional state and have an action plan in place to bring you back to center when you get off balance. If we all take care with our words, our world would be a much different place. Use your words carefully. They matter to you and to others.
Yours in transformation,