The other day I was thinking about hands.
So often we look down at our hands, sometimes nervously, sometimes mindlessly, sometimes in shock or amazement. I recently painted a bookshelf and each day as I was cleaning up I would look down at my hands, covered in white paint, and be proud of the work I accomplished—and annoyed at how long it was going to take me to get my hands clean.
Hands can build. And we’ve seen them build. They create things from the ground up and we look at them, amazed that what we see before us came from these hands.
In the same way, hands can hurt. And we’ve seen them hurt. In movies, it’s common to see heroes and villains alike look down at their hands, wondering how—how could these hands have done such a thing?
Hands leave their mark, good or bad, building or destroying, often stopping us in our tracks to look at the wake of their work.
But the same isn’t always true for words.
When we speak, when we talk or scream or whisper or mention or mumble or demand or inquire or refuse or agree, we use our words. But we don’t always see what our words do. Oftentimes our words leave our mouths and we never know where they land or how far they reach. We don’t know if they fall on deaf ears or vulnerable ones. We don’t know if they are quickly forgotten or remembered forever.
Our words can build. They can inspire people. They can stay with people. They can shape people. In the same way, our words can hurt. They can tear people down. They can send people into darkness. They can shape people.
Our words leave marks, but oftentimes we don’t see them, especially when so many of our words are spoken online these days. We text and tweet and caption and comment and share and shout into the void of the internet and social media, assuming no one can hear us. We post and repost, sometimes solely to protect ourselves from judgment, and often without regard for those who might be hurt by what we say. We forget that people are people, even people that are different from us, even people who disagree with us. We forget that our words can build twice as high as our hands and can cut twice as fast.
I’m not here to tell you what to say, how to say it, or to infringe at all upon your right to say it. I just think we all could use a reminder that words matter. Our words matter. Whether we have one follower or millions. And what we say can change the world, for better or for worse. In this moment and in the infinity to follow. So let’s take our time. Let’s think about what we say and how we’re saying it. Let’s focus on echoing the good in what we’re fighting for rather than the hate for those we feel we’re fighting against. Let’s use our words (and our hands) to build and then watch as a new world takes shape.