The Power of Words & Continuing To Grow In My Care of Their Use

“Our words, thoughts and beliefs create specific results in the physical world. Therefore, abundance does not spring from an external source rather it comes from within, from thought, intention, attention and expectation. You, a powerful creative being, can change your perceptions, change your mind, and change your reality by changing your thoughts and expectations.” – Deepak Chopra

I decided to deactivate my Facebook and Twitter accounts last week. The thought had been on my mind for awhile, but I finally made the decision after a day of altercations with a number of random strangers on Facebook. As I sat shaking on my couch, aggravated over the day’s virtual dialogues, I realized that my happiness was being directly impacted by my involvement on social media — and so I said good-bye.

I created an Instagram post about my deactivation because a few of my friends had noticed my absence and reached out to me to check on my status. (You can read it in its entirety @ashleylslack on Instagram.) I explained to these friends that my mental and emotional well-being was drastically decreasing every time I logged onto my Newsfeeds and made the choice to limit my virtual time by cutting off access cold-turkey. I used the post to let my connections know where I could be reached instead of those accounts. I also confessed that my time logging on was becoming obsessive; I was addicted to mindless scrolling, reading unhealthy discussions, and diving into the negative commentary that seems so rampant across the media lately. I weighed which platforms harmed me the most and settled to deactivate only Facebook and Twitter at that moment. I also decided to keep Instagram because I could admire images from people I choose to follow, refrain from reading captions that may trigger me, and continue interacting with my loved ones.

In this specific Instagram post where I shared my deactivation news, I also told how I came to my decision. It happened that I was defending a local small business’s choice to require masks be worn by their customers. I was going back and forth with two strangers, and I prayed to God to have persuasion over these women and for them to see my side of things. The answer God gave me was a resounding, “No.”

Though the post was successful in sharing my hiatus status, it brought about commentary I did not foresee. A random Instagram user took the time to call me out for talking like a Christian but not practicing Christian values. She mentioned that I had once blocked her after writing a “nasty blog post” about her. She found amusement in me talking to God and pretending to be a good person when, according to her, my actions do not walk the same line as my words.

Her comment was deleted within minutes of being posted, but the meaning of her words has left a sting in my heart over the past few days. At first, I thought she had commented on the wrong account — I personally know only one girl with her first name and I had definitely never blocked or wrote a blog post about her. Then I realized who she was: a girl I had seen one picture of, never conversed with, and only known her first name. A girl who had not been on my mind in the three plus years since she’d entered my life…

Three and a half years ago I was going through the most trying time of my life. In one month’s time I had lost my job and only source of income, my dog died, my best friend had found an unknown lump on her knee and questions of cancer were in the air, my boyfriend of two years broke up with me by telling me I was unlovable, and I was grieving the one-year anniversary of the death of my mentor. The future I had been planning and the life I had become accustomed to was crumbling around me. I did not handle that time in my life well. I was extremely depressed and was being watched like a hawk by my closest loved ones.

To make matters worse, I discovered my newly ex-boyfriend “began” dating a girl the day after he broke up with me. Within a few weeks the two of them were engaged… and then, just as quickly, over. My closest girlfriends were my ex’s best friend and his brother’s girlfriend. Every corner I turned, I heard about his relationship and listened to gossip about the girl with whom he had cheated on me.

That girl and the Instagram commenter were one and the same.

Upon drawing the conclusion of the girl’s identity, I will not lie and say that her comment no longer made sense to me. Though I had never blocked her anywhere (I never knew her last name), I had written a blog post concerning her in 2017. A post that could easily be deemed non-Christian in its intention — it was a post written to harm, and I cannot say otherwise.

About two months after The Month of Hell, I was slowly regaining control of my life. I had started a new job I loved, I was finding success with prescribed antidepressants, and I was in the very beginning stages of dating G. My life was on an up-swing. Then I came into contact with my ex for the first time since our break up. The two of us actually sat in the same church pew one Sunday and our paths’ crossing was unavoidable. However, my ex completely lacked any acknowledgment of my presence — going so far as to hug a friend sitting next to me and shaking hands with a guy on my other side. He held his head high as he pointedly didn’t make eye contact with me.

As I walked away from the incredibly awkward exchange (or lack there of), my depression spiked.

What had been months of sadness turned to resentment. I hated him. I hated the situation he had placed me in. I hated his lack of taking responsibility for his words and actions. I hated how I allowed him to continue controlling my emotions. Mostly, I hated myself for even caring about the his response to the situation.

So I took to the coping measure I had always used to express my feelings: this blog. I wrote in a fury a post with words that expressed my hatred. My vision was red as my fingers flew across the keyboard, and I ground my teeth as I clicked “Publish.”

I wrote only the truth. Yet, the words I wrote went beyond my emotions — they were charged with the power of personal information. I awoke the next morning with what can only be described as a “fury hangover.” That post in particular only survived for a day’s time before I took it down. I instantly regretted my lapse in judgment. But my words had held power, and their warpath could not be remedied.

That lapse in my self-control is one of my deepest regrets to this day. Even after reaching out to apologize to my ex for topics devolved in my ranting post, the damage was unmendable. I burned bridges to relationships I treasured and I tarnished my own image with a number of my friends. Yet, the whole situation provided a new foundation on which to build my life — and I set forth to become more cognitive of my words and my intentions behind using them.

Seeing the comment this weekend from this blast-from-the-past, I am again reminded how powerful words can be. How unbelievable is it that a girl I’ve never met was so impacted by my words from nearly four years ago that she found me on Instagram in 2020 to call out my morals? Anger could easily lick my wounds, but I am trying to take this little remembrance as a sign that I need to continue growing in knowledge of how to use my words for good.

While sometimes we cannot erase moments in time where we misused our words, there is always an opportunity to begin recognizing that words have power. Words are never “just words.”

One of the things that had become a trigger to me on Facebook and Twitter was the lack of understanding from others that their words, even if only typed as a comment, have power. It does not matter if you include “just my opinion” or “just saying”; the words you deem important to share with the world on social media are going to leave an impact, either positive or negative. Since quarantine and the start of COVID-19, it seems like more and more people utilize social media to say what they feel the need to say, and I was no exception.

In the last few days of remaining active on Facebook and Twitter, I spent my time wielding the sword for my favorite local restaurant or defending my political beliefs. I took special care to use my words with extreme consideration, but I still tended to try and persuade others to think like me. And when the other person wouldn’t come to “the better side,” it wrecked my perspective of him/her as a person.

Friends! This is not good! 

In no situation should I (or anyone else) believe they’re superior to someone simply because we have opposing views. Yes, you are entitled to your opinion, but you are not entitled to force that opinion on someone else. And that seems like a big problem in the world today, doesn’t it? Everyone uses their words with the intention to make a change, but where they want to see the change is the issue. The change should not be to your personal ego or the world’s status-quo. Instead, the change should be to make something (a social issue, an injustice, a community problem) known… and ultimately changed for the better.

Words have the power to generate conversation which can lead to changes in understanding, broadening of perspectives, and growth towards a common goal. Words can create change. The base of this issue begins with each of us on an individual level though. Words have power, but so do our thoughts. If the intention behind our words does not match, the outcome will never reach its fullest potential.

I pride myself in my faith. Being reminded and knowing I have spoken (and written) words that were unChristian is heartbreaking though. Ultimately, the greatest power I could ever have in my words is to share God’s grace, but obviously I have failed. However, only an ignorant person would say, “Words are just words and I cannot undo what I said.” Instead, I want to say this: I understand and I acknowledge my past failings. In that blog post and in a number of other occasions, my words had power to harm, and harm they did.

I can also say, though, that I continue to grow into a better person with every passing day — and the past three years have brought great growth to my character. I’ve been blessed with a support system who calls me out when I’m in the wrong, stands by me when I stumble, and encourages me to live Life with the best intentions. There have been several times throughout my life when I did not know the power within my words. With those missteps as lessons, I now try to take a step back in difficult circumstances, considering my words before using them. I’ve grown, but there is still growth to be done.

I am still learning how to use the power of my words for good.

And I pray that you are as well, my friends.

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