No. 1268



The English language is one of the most difficult in the entire world to master. This is because so many of our words have multiple meanings. For example, “When I look at you time stands still” has a completely different meaning than when we say, “You have a face on you that will stop a clock.” Words are powerful, and how we use them will determine our success or failure.
In my own personal experience, I have seen the power of inspiring words lift a very despondent person to overcome all manner of obstacles, and I’ve also seen the power of malicious and mean-spirited words tear another person down and make them feel worthless as a human being.
Here is what Leo Rosten, a noted authority on our language, has to say about words: “They sing. They hurt. They teach. They sanctify. They were man’s first, immeasurable feat of magic. They liberate us from ignorance and our barbarous past.”
There is no doubt about it: words are very powerful and we should be very careful how we use them, especially in relation to the worth and dignity of other people. This is even more important as it relates to members of our own family and others we have the power to influence. To illustrate what I mean, I’d like to tell you about an interesting experiment that has the potential to make a real difference in the lives of those unfortunate people who spend all or most of their time in a negative environment.
One time some research scientists took a large glass tank and filled it with water. In this tank they placed a large fish and a good number of small minnows. I hope you can see this in your mind. What do you think happened? If you said the fish ate the minnows, give yourself an “A.” For several days the scientists kept adding more minnows to the tank, and the big fish had a good thing going because he just kept on eating them. Then one day the scientists placed a glass partition between the two, with the big fish on one side and the minnows on the other. If you have spent a good deal of your time in a “negative” environment, or this is the case now, here is the part of this experiment that may be of some benefit to you.
As the big fish got hungry and would start for a minnow, the glass partition was there to stop him. In essence the partition was saying, “No, you can’t.” Finally, after several more days, the scientists removed the glass partition. At this point, what do you think happened? Here is the answer. The fish was so conditioned that, as minnows swam all around him, he would not even make an attempt to go after them, and in a few weeks he literally starved to death! In a tank where a banquet was being served, a fish starved to death because he had been pre-conditioned by a clear glass partition that said “No, you can’t.”
Here is the moral or principle of this story that has the potential to change our lives for the better. If we aren’t using the wonderful talents and abilities that God has given us, it could be that at some time in our lives we were pre-conditioned by people who literally kept saying “No, you can’t.” If you hear those words often enough, like the fish, pretty soon you will begin to believe them. This will result in lower self-esteem and a lack of self-confidence, which affects everything we do. Remember, as it relates to inspiring others, “words are powerful” and we need to be very careful how we use them. Are you hurting other people? If you are, please stop it, and quit being negative.
(Editor’s Note: JIM DAVIDSON is an author, public speaker, syndicated columnist and founder of the Bookcase for Every Child project. Since its inception in 1995, Jim’s column has been self-syndicated to over 375 newspapers in 35 states, making it one of the most successful in the history of American journalism.)