No. 44

There is an old saying that goes, "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me." While I don't know if you have ever heard this or not, I'm here to tell you that it's one of the biggest lies that has ever been told. 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.
Like you, I love the English language and do my best to express myself in a clear and convincing manner. 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 liberated 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. For some reason, our nation's school teachers just came to mind here. 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. This experiment began as follows: 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. Hopefully 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, here's 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 this partition was saying, "No, you can't" and this experience was repeated literally hundreds of times. Each time the fish went for a minnow, the partition was there to say, "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 correct 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 preconditioned by a clear glass partition that said, "No, you can't." Here's 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 preconditioned by someone who literally kept saying, "No, you can't." If we hear those words often enough, like the fish, pretty soon we 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. (EDITOR'S NOTE: Jim Davidson is a motivational speaker and syndicated columnist. You may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, AR 72034.)