I once watched a nervous young lawyer make his case in an appellate courtroom before a panel of three judges. The lawyer clearly had the superior legal position and the judges kept interrupting him to assure him that they understood his argument. What they really meant was, “It’s almost lunchtime and we’re hungry. You’ve already won, so just stop.” But the lawyer was inexperienced and did not get the hints. So when he inadvertently made a misstep, the now grumpy judges pounced. They began to challenge him until he painted himself into a corner. Finally, one judge took pity and said, “Counselor, don’t snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.”
Words. Our words are powerful and send out energy that calls back to us matching energy. Like an echo. A tragic example are the horrific deaths of Timothy Treadwell and his girlfriend Amie Huguenard, who were killed in Alaska while studying bears. An audio recorder that was left running revealed that one morning a bear attacked Timothy and killed him as Amie screamed and continued screaming even after the bear left. Soon after, the bear returned and killed her, too.
Experts speculated that Amie’s high pitched squeals were eerily like predator calls, devices used by hunters to lure predators out into the open. The predator calls mimic the sounds of an injured animal.
Of course, no one knows for sure whether she actually called the bear back to her, but we do know that our voice is an awesome gift, to be used for good or ill. We are all familiar with the concept of a self-fulfilling prophecy. While we might not be calling man-eating predators out of the shadows, we sometimes use our words, intentionally or carelessly, to send out harmful energy, which will then be reflected back to us.
You might immediately think about manipulative lies or malicious gossip or angry attacks. But what about veiled criticism or insensitive remarks? We don’t always hear ourselves or realize how our words sound to others. Sometimes my daughter will just blurt out whatever pops into her head, including things that hurt. When I react, she defends herself with, “But that’s not what I meant,” or, “I wasn’t thinking.” Too late.
We are even less likely to recognize the harm in voicing negative thoughts about ourselves, especially if we see the comments as funny or self-deprecating. There was a thankfully short-lived teen response to a mistake – “Oh, I’m stupid.” When any of my kids would flippantly say this, I would cringe. We call the energy to us that we project.
False modesty is just that – false. Bruce Lee was once asked if he was really “that good.” He replied, “If I say yes, you will think I am arrogant. But if I say no, you will know I’m lying.”
Okay, but what about the times when we really do feel stupid, or incompetent, ineffective, unattractive, unsuccessful, unlovable, or unloving? We all have thoughts like that sometimes. But we don’t have to give those thoughts power by voicing them. On the contrary, we can voice the opposite. We can speak the thoughts that will express and therefore attract what we want for ourselves. A famous AA saying is “fake it till you make it.” When I suggested this in a workshop, someone objected to the concept, saying that it wasn’t authentic or honest. Pema Chodron says that’s true only if we are deceiving ourselves. On the other hand, even “though we know exactly what we feel, we make the aspirations in order to move beyond what now seems possible.” Thus, we free ourselves from limiting and separating thoughts, whether directed at ourselves or at others.
We can choose to be a victim or a victor. We can speak our greatest destiny.
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