"Sticks and Stones will break my bones, but Names will never hurt me”. Remember that saying from your childhood? Words will never hurt you… what a complete load of hog’s wash. Words can continue to hurt long after physical wounds have long healed and are forgotten.

I watched a show on Netflix this evening and a guy was telling how his father never showed any love towards him or his siblings. He said his father never told him he loved him. He only told him he would never be good for anything in life.

Words spoken into someone’s soul can last a lifetime and indeed shape one’s life. Words can mold a very person’s future, personality, fears, anxieties, affections, and love. Words can do irreparable damage whereas broken bones can heal and further in life can be merely a memory, sometimes a badge of honour, a scar to be proud of, something overcome and sometimes the making of the man. Words however can destroy the man or woman.

I wonder if there is a person out there that has not been affected permanently by words spoken to them? It is astounding how words spoken, often flippantly, or without any intention of lasting meaning can stay and sometimes fester within someone’s mind and heart. Words spoken in passing conversation that the speaker of the words never even realised his or her impact on the person hearing. That the person speaking goes on living life, minding their own business completely oblivious to the sometimes torment of innocent words spoken. I have incidents in my life where people have spoken to me, probably in passing, or at a time when nothing untoward was meant, but it has had lasting effect on my life. I bet if I reminded these people of what they said, they wouldn’t even remember the conversation. Words… they matter, they matter lots.

Most of my life I have been confident, a ‘what you see is what you get’ sort of bloke. But in recent times, as I age, I am more and more aware of my mortality and my failings in life. Dear Lord, what have I said that have affected people’s lives? What passing stupid comments have I spoken, maybe trying to be funny or smart or trying to make an impression with someone that has shaped or mis-shaped someone’s life? I really shudder to think sometimes. Would I like to know? Would I like for people who I have hurt or maimed with my words to tell me? You know what, yes, I would like to know, so I can put things right. Or try to. I would apologise to them, beg their forgiveness. But you know what, I fear the damage has been done, the ‘scars’ would be there, and no apology would heal that. But I would like to know, I would like the chance to make good.

For the greater part of my life I considered my dad to be a great role model as my father. Dad passed away in 2015, 13th February to be precise, aged 91, a month off his 92nd birthday. I knew him for 57 years. But you know what… I didn’t know him at all. And the more I try and get my head around my dad’s existence, the more I realise how little I knew him. How sad is that? Dad left lots of ‘him’ behind in the form of poems, songs, paintings, drawings, paper toll, war relics, and much more, but I still did not know him. I loved my father, he provided for me, my sister, and my mother. He was a good provider. But I did not know him. He was present all my life, in the same town as I raised my own family and introduced grandchildren to him. But I did not know him. He saw the best and worst of me. He tried to give advice… but I did not know him. Dad was a ‘hands off’ sort of man. Fairly typical of his generation I would imagine. He wasn’t a hugging sort of guy, shaking hands was about as far as he went. I am the opposite; I am the hugging sort. I tried to hug my father and it was like hugging a light pole, nothing there. I did not know this man. He never once told me, to my recollection… that he loved me. There was always something between us, I never really felt comfortable or loved by my dad. Maybe that was typical of his generation. Dad spoke words into my life now and then, quite flippant words, words that I am sure he never meant to make any sort of negative impression at all. Passing words that he saw no effect at the time and therefore no reason to retract them. But I heard them. I remember them and remember them often. They hurt. I suppose to some extent they still hurt. Poor dad never ever realised what he had done. Not the slightest idea how his words stuck in his son’s mind and heart. Probably typical of his generation.

So, me, what have I said? What hurt have I caused to the ones I love the most? At times my heart is so heavy with the thought that I may have, no I would have said words in passing that have really hurt someone for life. All my life I have promised myself that I would be a better dad to my children than my dad was to me. I tried to be the ‘hands on’ dad, even after a real hard day work, I would try to spend quality time with my kids. Throughout their lives I hug them, kiss them and tell them I love them and am proud of them. Sometimes when they didn’t really deserve it, I would still give them love. I was their dad, I had a job to provide, guide, discipline, be an example, love, encourage, protect, be strong for… what words have I spoken that have hurt them to this day? I would love to know… I think…

I was told once; you cannot do better than your best. I suppose dad did his best, sometimes I wonder. Maybe it was his generation. One thing I know, I have done my utmost all through my family’s life with what I knew at the time. I cannot take back those misplaced words; I can only love them all as much as I can for as long as I am in this world.

I wonder if my kids know me…

Give thought to your words.