My eleven-year old son had a hockey tournament in Los Angeles last weekend. For the first time in his seven-year hockey career, Tate had an injury during one of his games. Collided into another player. Went down hard. Came off the ice crying. He was in excruciating pain. When Tate got to the bench one of his coaches said to him, “Hockey players don’t cry!” When the coach found out later that Tate broke his collar bone, he apologized. But the power of his hurtful words caused Tate more pain than his injury.
Last week I had a speech in Dubai. First time to the Middle East. Fascinating city. And the warmest people. During my trip I learned that my team booked me a return flight back home with a seven and half hour layover at the Frankfurt, Germany Airport. Seven and half hour’s layover…on top of eighteen additional flying hours. I was not happy. I lost my cool. Said words that I regret. Said words that I can never take back.
I sold one of my businesses a few months ago. During the sale process things got stressful. And the guy who purchased my business sent me an e-mail calling me the most horrific things. I never responded. Took the high road. After the deal closed, he reached out to me, apologized and asked for forgiveness. Of course, I forgave him, but his hurtful words will never go away.
About ten years ago a friend of mine got a big book deal from a top publisher. Three times the size of my first book deal. Instead of being genuinely happy for her, I said an inappropriate and crude joke. She laughed it off. I apologized multiple times…even last month…ten years later. She still laughs it off. But my words can’t be erased.
I had a typing teacher in high school named Mrs. Dizzini. She hated her job. One of those teachers that should have been a prison guard, rather than educating kids. I failed her typing class. At the end of the semester she told me that I would NEVER go to college. Thirty-two years later it still hurts when I hear her name. Words hurt.
My wife has said to me that my words have made me very successful (as an author and speaker) but gotten me in a lot of trouble (as a husband and father). My tongue, Jill has said, is a double-edged sword. And I need to do a better job controlling my tongue.
We all do. My son’s hockey coach loves kids. The gentleman that purchased my business is a good man. And my typing teacher was probably just having a bad day…or week…or year…or life!
We all say things that hurt others. But we can never take our words back. Never.
Heart-Led Leaders control their tongues. They speak goodness into people. And they use their words to build people up, not tear them down…even if they can’t type!