Words can be encouraging and strengthen others’ confidence in themselves. But words can also hurt and depress others’ self-esteem. What is the best way to figure out what the right words are?
The old saying ‘sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me’ couldn’t be further from the truth. We have seen in recent days the impact on going hurtful words can have, it can prove just too much for people.
In our work with some of the most marginalised people in the work, those living with the double disadvantage of poverty and disability we see the impact others’ words and actions can have on people every day. We see people who have lived a lifetime of being told they are useless, that they have nothing to offer. So often they have come to believe this and see no value in their life.
Yet, as a Christian organisation, we see things differently. We see everyone as someone who has something very special to offer. Based on this we work with people to build up their belief in this, building confidence and undoing the misconceptions put on them by others. Only when this is done can we then work to build the skills needed to make the most of the opportunities available. We also work with the community to change their attitude to disability and the people living in their community with disabilities.
We all feel better when we receive encouragement, yet many so easily take to social media or talkback to criticise. Imagine being on the end of this faceless critique from strangers. It hurts, it undermines confidence and it reduces our capacity to contribute to the best of our ability. This is not something that only affects those we see as easy targets or less able than ourselves, it could easily affect all of us. Imagine if we all took the approach of treating others as we would like to be treated. What would the world look like then?
Written by Darren Ward, CEO of cbm New Zealand.