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I’m sure you are familiar with the old adage sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me. Cute, for sure, but wildly inaccurate. If we are honest with ourselves we have all been hurt by words. That’s why it’s no surprise that the Bible includes so much instruction on how we use our tongue. God wants to remind us that our words have meaning, power and can either build up or tear down. I mean, just look at what James says regarding our tongue and the words that come out of it.
“For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God.” James 3:7-9
That's some strong language! Bottom line is our tongue and the words we say can bring life or bring destruction and we want to make sure that we are bringing life because we can’t take back the damage our words may cause. I remember a powerful analogy that helped me solidify this principle and I have done this same analogy with my kids. I gave them a small tube of toothpaste and told them that the toothpaste inside is your words. Then I told them to squeeze out all the toothpaste on the plate. They had a blast squirting the toothpaste everywhere. Then I told them to try and put the toothpaste back in the tube. Guess what? It couldn’t be done and so the lesson was watch what you say because you can’t undo what you say. You can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube. You can try but once it’s out, it’s out.
Hopefully that analogy helps you a little bit as we are reflecting on what we say and the weight of our tongue. I have not mastered this. I am a work in progress on this topic and that is partly why I’m writing this because I know I’m not alone and recently I have learned some helpful tips, which I will share in just a minute. But first, what does this have to do with physical therapy? Two quick points:
What we say to our patients and colleagues matters. We want to make sure that we are kind in our speech to our patients. We don’t always know what a patient may be going through in their life. We don’t always understand what may be occurring behind the scenes. So we must guard what we say and make sure that we are encouraging and building them up. Same with our colleagues. We should speak in a manner that edifies them and does not tear them down.
What we say about our patients and colleagues matters. There is probably nothing worse than being torn down in secret behind your back. And I have been so convicted in my life and practice in this regard. It is so easy after a patient encounter that might have been weird or awkward or frustrating to sit down with our colleagues and vent or poke fun at the patient or patient interaction. Brothers and sisters, this ought not to be so. I am the first to admit that I have failed in this regard and that is part of the conviction to write this blog. We want to speak life about a patient even if they are not right in front of us. And if we can’t speak in a worthy manner about someone, then maybe we just need to hold our tongue. Again, we don’t know what the patient may be going through but we must remember that they are still created in God’s image and worthy of dignity. Now, sometimes patients or colleagues do some funny things and it may be OK to share that story as long as the dignity and integrity of the person can be maintained. But I do think we need to be more careful with how we speak and what we say about patients in the office.
So is there a way to help us remember to pause before we speak? Yes! This acronym from my Pastor is one that I have found to be very helpful in framing what I say and how I say it both in the workplace with my patients and colleagues and in my home. The acronym is T.H.I.N.K. I have attached a bunch of passages for you to look up and be reminded of how often the Bible speaks to our speech. Take the time and go through this acronym.
T. Is it True - Prov. 15:2, 15:7, 15:28, 18:8
H. Is it Harmful - Prov. 12:18, 13:3, 29:11
I. Is it Inspiring - Prov. 10:21, 12:25, Eph 4:29
N. Is it Necessary - Prov. 10:19, 18:6-7
K. Is it Kind - Matt. 7:12
So next time when you are about to say something at your home with your family, at your workplace with your colleagues, or in a treatment room with a patient, T.H.I.N.K. before you speak and watch the words you say impact the people you interact with in a helpful, encouraging, and edifying way.
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