Influential Words

Last Sunday I was flipping through the T.V. channels and caught the end of the Cardinal vs. Seahawk game. You know the one. The game that went into overtime and ended in a 6-6 tie after both Catanzaro and Hauschka missed game-winning field goals. As the coaches, players and fans watched in horror as the two 25-ish yard kicks veered off course, I looked at the faces of the kickers.

Hope was replaced by despair as shocked settled on each player’s face and as I sat watching them walk to the sidelines with their head down, I hoped they understood one missed kick doesn’t define who they are.

Later in the week, I read a post of the head coaches responses when asked if they had any words for their kickers after the game.

How Will You Respond?

Coach Arians of the Cardinals replied “Make it. This is professional, this ain’t high school, baby. You get paid to make it.”

Coach Carroll of the Seahawks replied, “[Hauschka] made his kicks to give us a chance and unfortunately he didn’t make the last one. He’s been making kicks for years around here…but he’s gonna hit a lot of winners as we go down the road here. I love him, and he’s our guy.”
Who do you think went home that night feeling better about themselves after the game?

“Be careful with your words. Once they are said, they can be only forgiven, not forgotten.” ~Unknown

The response of these coaches caused me to pause and reflect on words I had chosen in the past when things didn’t always go as I hoped.

Words Have Weight

Like the time my son went out for a joyride with friends one foggy fall night and ended up totaling his car. I remember the knock on our bedroom door at 2 AM and the words “Everyone is okay, but I need to tell you something.” After he had told us what happened, I remember my response was harsh. I said, “it’s not about a f**ked up car, but it is about the lives of the people in that car.” And then I told him he lost his driving privileges….forever.

“True empathy requires that you step outside of your own emotions to view things entirely from the perspective of the other person.” ~ Unknown

Rita Pierson gave a TedTalk on Every Kid Needs a Champion.

In her talk, she shared a story about a child who took a quiz with 20 questions. This boy ended up missing 18 of the 20 questions and Rita put a +2 on his paper with a smiley face. The boy went up to her and asked if the grade was an “F” and she replied that it was indeed an F. He looked at her and said: “Then why did you put a smiley face on my paper.” Her response was brilliant. “Because you’re on a roll. You got two right and didn’t miss all the questions.” She goes on to share with the audience that minus 18 sucks all the life out of a person, but plus two says “I ain’t all bad.”

Words have the power to inspire dreams, but they also have the power to destroy the very spirit within us.

From parents to teachers and supervisors to co-workers there will be a time when we encounter someone who is looking for a little encouragement and empathy when faced with feelings of failure. How we respond to others when they are having a bad day can have a direct impact on their behavior in the future.

Your Words Matter

Yes, games will be lost, papers will be handed back with low scores, and kids will break and damage things. The secret is to remember we have all had similar situations in life. And more times than not, I bet there was someone who came along side of us to remind us we weren’t all that bad. They encouraged us causing us to stand a little taller, and believe we would do better next time.

At the end of the day, Catanzaro and Hauschka will successfully kick game-winning field goals again, just like my son got behind the wheel of a car again. But examples like these are small reminders, that we have the power to “suck the life out of someone” or the power to speak life into someone. It is up to us to make sure we use this power wisely.

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