I was standing in line the other day at one of those dollar stores that every small town has and in front of me was a woman in her late thirties, early forties and her young son, who looked to be about 10 or 11-years old.
The kid was having a good time and wrapped up in his own little world. You know how it is. When you’re young, the imagination has no shackles and is given free reign to explore the fertile fields of the mind. It’s a shame that most of us lose that as adults.
Anyway, this kid is completely enjoying his daydream when Mom asks him to help get stuff from the shopping cart and put it on the counter to be scanned. Of course the kid does nothing, in his mind he’s some superhero or athlete saving the day or winning the big game. Hell to be totally honest, I wanted to be where he was at. It looked like a lot of fun.
A few moments later Mom asks him again, still no reply. He’s got some toy or gadget and is completely absorbed in the moment. Not a bad lesson for us adults to learn. The Bible mentions being like a child to enter the kingdom and I’m finally starting to get it.
Apparently, Mom doesn’t get it just yet.
In a split second, she jolts him from his imaginary land by grabbing his shoulder and giving a little shake. What followed was a vivid display to the nth degree of the destructive power of words.
“Pay attention,” his mom said with raised voice. “Listen to me when I talk to you. What’s wrong with you. You’re so stupid. When are you going to grow up.”
I particularly find it strange when a parent asks their young child to grow up when they haven’t even reached puberty yet. Oh well, such is life.
Just when I thought she was done, Mom got a second wind and this time the venom of the words grew more potent.
“I swear I think you’re retarded. You’re never going to amount to anything if you don’t settle down and start listening. Do you want to be a loser your whole life? You’re an idiot. Now get the bags and lets go!”
Emotional scars can be much more damaging than physical. Mental wounds can and do inflict tremendous amounts of pain over a lifetime. Even though she probably doesn’t realize it, this woman is crippling her sons drive, desire and motivation.
If the boy hears that garbage loud enough, long enough and often enough; if he starts to believe what his mother says is true – the results can be catastrophic. Self-esteem is an important part of the success equation. Without it, the chances of living the life of an achiever dwindle. That kind of talk can lead to fear, doubt and a massive inferiority complex. The results are inaction, stress and failure.
Many have had to overcome this type of negative talk that their parents, relatives, teachers and others have dumped on them. It’s difficult, but it can be done. If you experienced the destructive power of words in your own youth remember one thing – all those words are is someone else’s opinion of you. And the only opinion that matters is the one you have of yourself.
Your parents and loved ones probably heard the same thing and are just repeating it verbatim. Don’t be too upset with them. Conditioning, especially at a young age, is a hard habit to break.
You can be anything you chose to be, do anything you want to do, accomplish anything you really want to and live the life you’ve dreamed of. All one has to do is believe, plan and act. Bring back the power of your imagination and be a like a kid again, with wonder, joy and a natural curiosity and hunger for life.
I hope the little boy in the dollar store grows up and finds out he isn’t stupid, lazy or worthless. I hope he learns that his opinion of himself is the only one that counts and I pray that he’ll still use his imagination from time to time, even if it’s just to daydream a little.
As for me, I’m going to be the hero and go save the damsel in distress.