I want to tell you about “a friend of mine” who “called me” awhile back to share her very, very, very bad day. All within a 24-hour time-frame, she experienced a broken high-heel right before she walked onto stage for a big presentation, her cocktail dress malfunctioned, she found out that a non-profit project she’d been passionately working on was being purposefully sabotaged by some community “leaders”, she got a flat tire on the way home after a very long day at work, she found herself on the receiving end of a business deal that was handled extremely inappropriately, she hosted a function where everything that could have possibly gone wrong did, she got into a fight with her husband over something totally stupid, and she woke up the next morning on her birthday to discover a huge zit in the middle of her cheek and her first cluster of gray hairs. Oh, and apparently it is possible to gain nine pounds in two days.
Now, this is a friend of mine who is usually very focused and positive. But every now and then, when you hit a day like this, you just have to stop and wonder what is going on. Have you ever had a bad day? Of course you have…I think we all have. The question is how we respond to the bad day. If you’ll remember with me back to a past conversation we’ve had, there is a very powerful equation we discussed that helped my friend maintain a proper perspective on her situation: E+R=O. Event + Response = Outcome. There will be many “events” to take place in our life that we didn’t ask for, can’t control, and don’t deserve. Some of them will be annoying and frustrating, some of them will be enraging, and some of them will be heartbreaking. But it’s not the “event” itself that causes our outcome. It’s how we respond to the event that produces our outcome. The event is only half of the scenario – we are the other half. We can’t undo the events once they’ve happened, and whether or not we could have prevented them is irrelevant once do they happen. The part we are responsible for is how we respond to the event, and that is the part that determines our future.
My friend was reminded of an important principle that unfortunate day. Heels can be repaired, dresses can be returned, tires can be replaced, business deals come and go, seams can be altered, the truth usually makes itself known over time, zits go away, hair can be dyed, and weight can be lost. But words can’t be undone. Once they’ve been said, they can’t be unspoken. A wise proverb says, “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” What have you been eating this week? Have you been ingesting life-giving words of purpose, intention, and determination, or poisonous words of gossip, complaints, and victimization? Are your words perpetuating the frustration and scarcity of your situation? Or are you breathing life, hope, and abundance into your future with every word that leaves your mouth? As silly and trivial as this may sound, the truth behind it is shockingly real. Remember the wisdom of guarding your heart and guarding your tongue. We are told that “from the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks”. In other words, what you think about, you talk about. And of course, what you talk about, you bring about.
Another Proverb advises, “Watch your tongue and keep your mouth shut, and you’ll save yourself a lot of grief.” When we find ourselves in the middle of a bad day or bad situation, a wise person will be acutely aware of the ripple effect that flows out from their words in response to the circumstance. When our patience is worn thin due to our trying situation, we often tend to transfer that impatience to the people around us. We may snap at our family members, bark at our coworkers, or get downright ugly with the vendors or clients we’re working with. It’s probably safe to say that we’ve all lost our cool at one point or another, and most of the time we regret it as soon as the words leave our mouth. We must realize that being mean or rude to the people around us isn’t going to get us anywhere in life. Because when the moment of crisis or tension passes, the words we’ve spoken don’t pass away with it. They are left lingering in the hearts and minds of those who heard them as testaments to our character. I once heard that character isn’t developed in moments of crisis, it’s revealed during those moments.
Long after you’ve left a situation, phone conversation, or roomful of people, your words are left behind as your reputation. So, let me ask you this: If the collection of words you speak could be compiled into a character sketch, what would yours say? On good days, bad days, normal days…during times of victory, times of defeat, and times of utter frustration…what do your words say about you? And not just words you speak from a public platform, but words you speak in the privacy of your own home, around the “comfort” of your closest friends and family. Think about this, why on earth would we save our best behavior for people we hardly know, only to come home and dump on the people we care about most?
If the people you know were asked to describe you in five words, what would they say? Would your coworkers say the same thing as your family members? Would the call center associates for your cell phone company who are on the receiving end of your bill complaints have the same impression of you as your clients do? To have consistent character means that we are the same person, reflected by our words, no matter who we’re speaking to or what the situation may be. Character must be built over time and can be destroyed in a moment. Our reputation rises and falls based on the words that come out of our mouth and how they affect the people around us.
So, do we really want to risk all of that just to blow some steam when we’ve had a bad day? A couple of my friend’s catastrophes hurt her bank account, but most of them only hurt her pride. In either case, when it comes to matters of character, does it really matter “if we deserve” to lose our cool? We can justify it all we want, but anyway you slice it, we’re reacting to an event and exponentially magnifying the long-term effects of the disaster. We must have the fortitude to be the calm in the storm, instead of being swept away by the storm. It’s those tests of character that create the habits that define our destiny.
Your words have the power of life and death over your current situation and your future. You can exercise that power with wisdom to direct your path, or by mere neglect and default it can be unleashed around you like a tornado, leaving nothing but damage and destruction in its wake. But, how do you gain control of your words? 4 simple steps: 1) Become aware of this incredible power you possess, 2) Resolve to use it wisely, 3) Make the moment by moment decisions to control your words, and 4) Be willing to apologize and recommit when you slip.
These steps are not necessarily easy, but they are very simple. For the outcome at stake, I would say they are more than worth it. And yes, that’s really all there is to it. Thanks for Digging Deeper with me today!