Tuesday, February 17, 2009

What You Talking 'Bout?

When I was a little kid, my mom put a poster on my wall that I've never forgotten. The poster read :"Great minds talk about ideas, mediocre minds talk about events and small minds talk about people."

My parents always pushed my brother and I to be leaders instead of followers. In addition, they had little patience when we made mistakes and blamed those mistakes on the actions of others. In their minds, we were responsible for our own thoughts and our own actions. Any attempts to shift responsibility were met with swift dismissal.

I remember the first time I got into a fight with someone because of a "Yo' momma" joke. In the black public schools I attended, the easiest way to start a fight without actually hitting somebody was to talk about their momma. If you didn't fight to defend your momma, everybody assumed you were a punk.

So, when a classmate made a crack about my mother, I knew what I had to do. I started swinging, we started fighting, and pretty soon I was in the principal's office explaining the nebulous code of honor that ruled the playground.

Unfortunately, my mom didn't seem to care about that code. As I explained to her just how vile an insult my classmate had directed at her, she asked me one simple question: "Does that little boy know me?"

Blew my mind.

After all, my classmate didn't know my mother from the tooth fairy. Who cares if he said she was so fat her belt size was "equator?" He had never even seen my mother and probably couldn't spell equator. His words had no power because he had no power over my mother. He couldn't make her fat, or dumb, or ugly. All he could do was talk.

My mom taught me an important lesson about letting people control me. She always said that if you let somebody push your buttons, they'll keep on pushing to watch you dance. Despite that old rhyme about sticks and stones, we all know words have the power to hurt. The difference is that when someone hits you with a stick, you have no choice in being hurt, but you do have a choice when it comes to ugly words.

There have been many days where I cried real tears about the words somebody said to me and how they made me feel. I'm sure most of y'all can relate to that. But, that pain taught me how to craft my words into weapons, and then life taught me when it was time to use that weapon. There was a time when I was much less careful with my speech, much more careless with the power of my words. Slowly, that's changing.

I think before I speak now. I'm more discriminating when it comes to lending my voice to certain discussions. My words, and my thoughts, have the power to wound or heal. The same thing is true for everyone. We all carry that power around with us.

So, what you talking about?



Anonymous said...

I watched Joel Osteen before church on Sunday (two messages), and he spoke from Proverbs 20:3 ... which speaks exactly to what you're saying.

I think Jay-Z put it: "A wise man said don't argue with fools, cause people from a distance can't tell who is who."

It all makes sense. Good post.

Big Man said...

Thanks man.

Mac Daddy Tribute Blog said...

Thanks for this wise post, Big Man.

I, too, was on who was quick to fight. When someone would call me a name, or my sister a name, would dive over school desks to beat a guy to before a teacher would show up. It was only when I joined the Nation Of Islam and received self-defense training did I learn what you're talking about now: Stay calm at all times; look for someone's vulneralbilites but remain open to a way to show that he is your brother, not your enemy.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, words can be awfully powerful. I've never been very good with them in verbal exchanges, but I've penned some letters with serious politely-dressed malice when I have to deal with some nasty company or deadbeat organization...as well as writing some seriously diplomatic things that have smoothed over rough spots in many a relationship, professional or otherwise.

Raving Black Lunatic