You know how people always say, “You don’t know how much damage words can make.”

Well, that’s not true for me. I know. I knew. When I was at my worst, I very much knew about how hurtful my words can be, but I still said them because of that very same reason. They hurt.

I knew that then, I still know that now. The only difference is that I now care that they do.

The journey wasn’t easy for me, though. I had a couple of wrong principles that I held on to until the time when I HAD to change them because something really bad happened.

1. I say what I want when I want to, where I want to, to whom I want to.

Somehow, I have this worthless and evil gift of knowing what makes people tick, I know exactly what to say to break their spirit and crush their will. When I was in high school, that was part of what I was known for. I rarely said a word during confrontations, but when I did… Man! The other party was sure to go down. I said what I want and I wanted them to hurt someone, they really would.

I walked tall and proud, but the words I threw haunted me at night. There were nights when I would feel like the bad taste that those words left in my stomach, throat and mouth made me throw up. Not want to throw up. Really REALLY throw up.

Why?

That’s because I ruined lives. I was fully accountable for the damage I did to my poor victims. That was the reason why guilt tore me down. Even if there were quite a lot of benefits that I enjoyed by being that “cool” and “ruthless,” they just weren’t worth it. Eventually, I decided that it’s wrong to say things you want to say just because you want to. They should at least mean something.

2. I say what I mean and I mean what I say.

The decision came because I wanted to be better than I was before. This time, I wanted my words to have the same power they had before, but I wanted them to have a purpose this time.

I wanted to do change things, change people, with my word With this new principle, I added two new mottoes, “I get things done.” and “I push people. They may hate me at first, but they’ll get it in the end.”

It wasn’t too long before I realized that people still hated me. This time, it was even worse because the people I “pushed” and eventually pushed away were people I genuinely cared about. At least, the people I used to hurt before weren’t people I knew that much or even liked. This time was different.

I kept telling myself that I did it for them, that it was okay if I said some pretty mean stuff and they hated me for that as long as it made them a better person after. I said the hard things, the tough stuff, about how what they’re doing is wrong and how their suggestions wouldn’t work. I told them what the problem with them was and how the truth isn’t easy to take. I justified my ruthless words as just.

It wasn’t too long before my own words caught up with me and I was on the receiving end me the ugly and hurtful “true” comments. So, I decided to change again.

3. I’m not going to say anything. No say, no pain.

After spending the best parts of my life with words as my primary weapon, keeping mum was the hardest thing I ever had to do. It left me alone, vulnerable and defenseless.

Not long after my “weak” side was revealed, my world turned upside down. This time, people started talking about me instead of to me.

Rumors began to circulate. I watched as the people I pushed to stand for something make the decision to stand united against me. It was the irony of all ironies. I created my own monsters.

Still, I kept my word and took the high road. I promised never to defend myself against them. Need I say that my reputation and self-esteem took the blows? I sat there, for the first time, at a loss for words. I thought I was doing the right thing, but I quickly realized that using words wisely doesn’t mean not using them at all. Silence can easily be misunderstood as guilt. There’s also so much left unsaid and so much room for people to put words in my mouth.

Now, I’m not saying that I should’ve told everyone my side of the story. What I did was right. You don’t fight words with words. I was wrong because of what I kept doing after.

After that event, I stayed silent. I was so paranoid that I’ll say the wrong things, so I didn’t say anything at all. Eventually, I found myself alone again. I had no one I could share my heart with.

What have I learned from all these experiences?

1. Talking down on people will push them down.

That was what I did in high school. There was this one time when I attended a concert and almost bumped against one of the kids I bullied in high school. I say almost because as soon as she saw me, a panicked look spread across her face and she ran away.

I wanted to run after her and say sorry as I have done to around 10 other of my schoolmates before, but my feet felt as heavy as a bag of rocks. I just stood there feeling like the worst person in the world.

Never ever talk down on people. If not for God’s grace, I wouldn’t be standing right now. It took me almost 8 years to forgive myself for the things I did before. It’s not a feeling I wish upon anyone.

2. Talking at people will push them to their limit.

You may not be the type to talk down on people, but if you keep talking at them like you’re the boss or God’s gift to mankind, you’ll eventually (and very quickly) turn into the villain.

It’s not wrong to believe that the people you care about can be better than they currently are. I stand by that. It’s not wrong to tell them that they can do so much more. However, you have to be very careful in the way that you say these things. Intentions may be good, but if the way you accomplish your goals isn’t right, you’ll lose. The end does not justify the means.

3. Not talking to people will push them away.

I was also wrong to decide not to say anything. It’s hard to trust people with your heart, but not saying anything is wrong. Sharing your life is one sure way for us to gain friends.

Don’t be afraid to show your vulnerabilities, they are part of what makes you a person. When I decided to pull back and keep to myself, all I accomplished was alienate some of the people who could’ve been closest to me. They felt like I didn’t trust them enough.

If you want to build real and honest relationships, words are part of the equation. If you don’t say anything, people may think that you don’t trust them or that you think you’re better than them. They can very quickly build a picture of you in their minds. Whether that is too good to be true or too bad compared to reality, if it’s far from the truth, then it’s wrong.

My silence made some people think that I’m “too nice” while others thought I was a snob. Either way, true friends became hard to get by.

Don’t say too much or too little. Be very careful about what you say and how you say it.

Actions may speak louder than words, but what people hear from you is an easier giveaway to who you are.

And that’s my two cents on that.

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