Every year before Oscar night I swear I’m going to watch all the movies. This year I’ve come very close.
Yesterday I watched the movie Manchester by the Sea. This movie is profoundly depressing. The pain is palpable throughout the movie, but the acting is superb. The interesting thing about this movie is how pain was portrayed without words. This man who was profoundly depressed expressed his pain on the screen not with words but with the lack of them; with painful long periods of silence that the rest of us probably would have filled with words. His pain was beyond what any word could convey so he didn’t even try. Have you even had pain like that? I have.
Then I watched Moonlight. In this movie you watch a young boy, a blank slate get molded and shaped by the world around him. He is shaped not only by what he experiences and sees but he is profoundly impacted by the words that are said to him. He is called little, and soft. Later he is called faggot. You watch this child struggle and ponder these words that are splattered on him without regard like someone splattering paint. These words stick to him. Unfortunately this boy doesn’t get many kind or uplifting words splattered on him, they are few and far between. Those that do impart positive words on him, also lead dark lives and it is the dark side of their lives that ultimately leave the most impact on him.
My head was spinning after that movie. It brought me back to the power of words. Dr. Phil often says that it takes 100 positive words to overcome one negative word. That is some incredible power. Our words, our negative words have the power to impact a person 100 times more intensely than our positive words. If we could really wrap our minds around that would we be so careless with our words? Would our 10 minutes of anger be worth the lifetime of impact that those words said in that moment affect?
I have been the victim of those negative words. We all have. I can still recite them all to you. In school I was called, weird and fat. At home I was called the “wild child.” I was always told I was too much. In my marriage I’ve been called fat, unattractive, not sexy enough, etc. In my business I was called a liar, a thief, and incompetent. My own mother has recently called me a thief. Now I preface all of this by saying that no one said these words to me thinking they would stick with me forever. They were said in anger or frustration, or in ignorance. But they stuck. They stuck with crazy glue.
Don’t get me wrong. People have spoken affirming words over me too. In school I was called cheerleader, friend, sweet, etc. At home I was called “darlin”. In my marriage I’ve been called beautiful, and best friend. In my business I was called helpful and caring. But it was those ugly words that stuck. It’s like they were covered in crazy glue! I’ve worked for years to unstick them, but it hasn’t been easy. They are the default of what I think about myself unfortunately.
Now this doesn’t even take into consideration the ugly words I’ve spoken over others. I shutter to think what lasting negative impact I’ve had on the lives of others. As I process through this it makes me think. Are those ugly words worth it? I may mean them for 2 minutes but they last a lifetime. It’s time to really think about what I say. Silence can convey a great deal. I don’t always need to fill up the void with ugly words. Sometimes silence truly is golden. To quote one of my favorite movies, Bambi “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothin’ at all.”