• Lijing Cobb


A woman once came to Mahatma Gandhi with her little boy. She asked, “Mahatma-ji, tell my little boy to stop eating sugar.”

“Come back in three days,” said Gandhi.

In three days the woman and the little boy returned and Mahatma Gandhi said to the little boy, “Stop eating sugar.”

The woman asked, “Why was it necessary for us to return only after three days for you to tell my little boy that?”

The Mahatma replied: “Three days ago I had not stopped eating sugar.”

Have you heard of that one?

How many of us possess integrity like that? This morning my boy tested my patience again in his usual absent-minded way, and in controlled anger I told him that I only had so much patience for him. Without hesitation he said, “me too!” Incredulously I asked in my crescendo voice, “What did you just say?” And then suppressed the loudness to threaten him that I no longer cared about him. Storming upstairs to get away from my son, who is now wailing, I felt at once indignation and regret. What a pity that I keep saying the things I don’t mean. No wonder my boy doesn’t take me seriously. What difference does it make that my 7yo says things like these that are outrageous lies just because she’s being unreasonable, and me saying things like these just because I’m pissed, and some say rightfully so? Nobody believes us, including ourselves.

When people say actions are louder than words, I think they might mean that actions are more credible than words because it takes more energy to do than to say. I think that’s why Gandhi had to do it first before he could say the words to the little boy. My boy has no problem saying the words I want to hear, but doing them? That’s often too much for him to bother. And guess what? I AM THE SAME WAY!

Words need to be weighty. Words are not feathers, lint, dust, air particles. They are stones, daggers, javelins, mountains. Words do not fly away and evaporate. They land and take root.

Use words carefully, not with the brain, but with the heart. Use words to suture, not to cut. Use words to soothe, not to cinch. Use words to lift, not to trample.

Use words wisely. And when wisdom is scarce, let there be silence. Every word we say in this life is a little particle that makes up the whole of us, so choose carefully.

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