I had to laugh in church one Sunday as the speaker, a young husband, shared an experience he had with his wife who seemed as though she was upset with him.
In his perceptive, husbandly way, he asked, “Is something wrong?”
His wife snapped back, “No! Nothing is wrong.”
Noticing her clenched jaw and angry eyes, he regrettably remarked, “Well, you should tell that to your face!”
He continued, “And then I began to learn a little more about the silent treatment.” Later as I walked down the hallway, I overheard this husband say to a friend, “I only said that once.”
Our spoken and unspoken communications matters. Whether those messages come through the words we speak, the messages we write, or even the non-verbal cues that our body language conveys, our communication makes an impact.
I am reminded of a particular Sunday church meeting when my middle daughter, Misha, snuggled up next to me.
As I listened to a beautiful musical number, Misha noticed I had goosebumps on my arm. She asked, “Why do you have goosebumps?” and I explained that I got goosebumps when I listened to things that were beautiful. I loved her next question as she sincerely inquired, “Do I give you goosebumps?” (October 19, 2009)
I love this quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson:
“What you do speaks so loudly, I can’t hear what you’re saying.”
Mahatma Gandhi encapsulated a similar idea when he taught, “My life is my message.”
Our communication is expressed in so many ways beyond simply the words we speak. Our talent lies in communicating our message of love and acceptance to family, friends…even strangers.
Words matter and sometimes there are few substitutes for expressing exactly how you feel about someone other than using words.
Those messages come by visiting in person, making a phone call, writing an email, sending a text, or mailing a card to let someone know that you are thinking of them.
The Rice Experiment
To illustrate the importance of words, I am reminded of a friend’s experience with her own version of “the rice experiment.”
For two years, Christina had three jars of rice sitting on her kitchen counter “minding their own business.” She began her experiment by sterilizing three jars and filling each jar with cooked rice from a single batch. On one jar, Christina wrote positive words, negative words on another, and no words on her “control” jar.
The picture she posted of her jars of rice included two jars of white rice and one jar full of black and moldy rice.
She noted that “for 2 years, we have watched it slowly change. I started to see a change months and months into it…As you can see clearly negative words destroy. Positive words support and sustain…
What do you say to yourself? What do you say to others? What do you say about others?” (Christina S, April 2017)
Communicating Love to our Children
As each of our girls began to learn their first words, Chris and I were quick to include please, thank you, and I love you in their vocabulary. Amy, Misha, and Kristen learned the words best which we repeatedly said.
I have noticed that all of our children pick up on the words and phrases that Chris and I regularly say; they begin to say those words and phrases themselves.
Kristen, our youngest, often begins many sentences with the word “Well.” So if I ask her, “What are you doing?” She’ll often reply, “Well, I am playing with my dolls.”
I hadn’t realized that I started a lot of my sentences with “Well” until she was in time-out on the stairs, and I was trying to reason with her. I caught myself starting a sentence, “Well… you can either…” (March 21, 2008)
“One of the greatest influences a person can have in this world is to influence a child. Children’s beliefs and self-worth are shaped early in their lives. Everyone within the sound of my voice has the power to increase a child’s confidence in himself or herself and to increase a child’s faith in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ through the words they speak.”
At the young age of sixteen months, Misha’s vocabulary showed improvement from week to week.
Misha says “please” and “thank you” and is learning “you’re welcome” and “sorry.” If I say to her, “Can you say…” and then add a word, she will usually say it. She is really good at saying “purple.” (October 25, 2002)
Saying I Love You
One year later, my heart was touched by the simple but heartfelt words Misha had learned to say and, more importantly, that the words held a deeper meaning for her.
She had begun to understand.
Misha’s vocabulary and sentence structure abilities are growing by leaps and bounds. She likes to say, “Know what Mom? I lub you.” I have said, “Know what? I love you,” to both Amy and Misha since they were babies, and it touched my heart in only the way a daughter can the first time Misha took the initiative and said it to me. (October 26, 2003)
When our girls were young (Kristen was still a toddler), Chris and I planned a family lesson on the words we speak.
We handed Amy and Misha each a tube of toothpaste (affiliate) and a paper plate and said they could squeeze as much of the toothpaste onto their plate as they wished. They were all for it and were quick to squeeze out a good portion of the minty goo.
Then we said, “Now, put it back in.”
They were confused and at a loss for how they could accomplish such a task. It was a perfect segue into talking about the words we say. Once words are out of our mouth, it is impossible to take them back or un-say them.
“The words ‘I love you,’ ‘Thank you very much,’ and ‘Forgive me’ are like a balm for the soul. They transform tears into happiness. They provide comfort to the weighed-down soul, and they confirm the tender feelings of our heart” (Enrique R. Falabella, The Home: The School of Life, 102-103).
There are so many words and combinations of words that uplift, strengthen, and empower. Such words often communicate love and acceptance, and it is truly a talent to share positive messages.
There is tremendous power in our unspoken communication as well. Tears filled my eyes when I read the kind words of a friend wishing me a happy birthday. She set such a powerful example for me that I can simply do more in communicating love:
So often on Facebook, I wish my friends a simple “Happy Birthday” and then move on. I was touched by a friend’s thoughtful and kind birthday sentiment. I appreciate people who inspire me to be better and do great things:
“I wish you a happy birthday and a wonderful year to come! You have always been an inspiration to me. I have admired your willingness to try new things. I also admire your ability to keep your family ‘intact’ and moving forward with a husband who traveled so much.
That is such a challenging lifestyle but you do it masterfully. I always loved any lesson you taught because I learned something new and felt uplifted. Thanks for being such a great example of righteous womanhood and motherhood! My knowing you has enriched my life.” (January 31, 2019)
That message touched my heart. What are the messages that make a difference in your life? For my husband, it is the love notes I hide in his luggage when he goes on long trips.
Jo hid over a dozen notes in my luggage to find throughout my trip. The kids even pitched in with their own notes too. What a pick me up! It made being gone just a bit easier. (May 22, 2017)
You can read more about these notes in Love Notes for Your Favorite Traveler.
For my girls, it is the supportive notes of love and encouragement and even the tender notes of goodbye that make a difference.
I love that we all leave notes for each other in this family.
As I was in the girls’ rooms the other day, I spied the encouraging notes Amy had left for her sisters—followed a couple of days later with “goodbye notes” from her to all of us as she left for college. (September 11, 2018)
Communicate Your Love
Way back in 2007, a year of broken bones and a burst appendix, I wrote to friends and family in our yearly Christmas newsletter about the importance of communicating love and acceptance:
This has been an interesting year for our family. Love became one of the overriding themes I felt as the year progressed. Love for my family, love for friends.
More specifically, when I send my family out the door each day they need to know they are loved for a variety of reasons: to bolster them up, to part with a feeling of love because you don’t know what is going to happen before you see them again, and to create a home that welcomes them back (Family Christmas Newsletter, 2007).
Final Thoughts on My Life is My Best Message
What is the message of your life? The hope is that your message communicates love and acceptance, whether it comes through service, lunch dates, a two-hour phone call, or dropping off a loaf of zucchini bread with a thoughtful note.
Allow your message to make a difference.
If your heart could use a little more uplift, you might enjoy reading additional inspirational blog posts:
- The 1 Best Way to Follow Promptings
- Bountiful Tender Mercies and 20 Seed Potatoes
- A Mom Who Loves 3 Awesome Girls
- Love Notes for Your Favorite Traveler
For years, I have been journaling about the crazy antics of my husband, our three girls, and I as we laugh, grow, play, and travel the world together. Please note that the italicized blurbs in this post are from my journals.
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