Much as I love sport, I’ve never been particularly athletic. I do my best, train hard and am totally committed, but some people just aren’t sporty. Believe me, I’m the one who turned up to the softball tryouts in primary school only to – literally – have a room full of chatting students turn around and stare at me speechless for ten very long seconds before one bold person felt the need to point out to me that, “you do know this is softball, right, Hannah?” Um, yes.
I laughed it off awkwardly and somehow managed to lob a ball straight enough to make pitcher on the B Team. (I only found out at the first practice that I’d done tryouts with the catching glove on my wrong hand. Oops. See? Not sporty! Though I guess getting into a team using my non-preferred hand has got to count for something, right?)
I loved playing and training and being part of that softball team but I’m pretty sure I either struck out or got run out on my way to first base every time I batted – except once. And it was entirely the other team’s fault.
That particular day, as I was coming up to bat, I heard their pitcher yell out, “move out, move out everyone! This girl is good!” I laughed a little, figured they were kidding as my terrible reputation must have preceded me, and watched in absolute astonishment as the outfielders moved further out. I couldn’t believe they were actually serious!
Now, I’m fairly certain they had me mistaken with another girl on my team around about my height who actually could bat, but their belief that I was actually that good made me want to be. I stood there on that base, staring the pitcher down (hiding the amused smirk) and when that ball came toward me, I smashed it – all the way into the next field. It felt awesome! (Ok, so I’ll admit, my aim was tiny bit off and it ended up being a foul, but only slightly.) I had them totally convinced. I hit the next ball too and made it to first. I honestly don’t remember whether I made it home or not but I’ll never forget the thrill of that bat connecting so perfectly with the ball.
And all because that girl told everyone I was a batter to fear.
Words have power.
Believe in someone and they will become that person. Believe they’re good and they’ll live up to it. Unfortunately, the opposite is also true. You can bring them down with your words just as fast.
Whether they’re said jokingly, in the heat of a fight or with the best of intentions – words are powerful. They can instil with courage and make someone more than they are, or they can eat away bit by bit at someone’s confidence until they don’t even have the courage to stand.
Good or bad, truth or lies, tell someone something enough and they will believe it. But more than that, it will become part of who they are.
The mistaken words of a grade six girl I didn’t even know gave me the courage to be better than I was. For that moment, that ball, I was an amazing batter. And there have been so many others who have done the same at different points in my life – believing and seeing in me a strength I hadn’t yet seen and instilling in me the will to be that person they saw. I will forever remember those moments and the encouragement of those people.
But I will also remember, and often regret, those times I have lost faith in myself because of the hurtful, disbelieving words others have said. Some of which, unfortunately, have taken years to recover from. If not for my faith in God and his belief in me, I wonder if I would have ever recovered from them. And those people who said them probably didn't even know they'd hurt me.
Your words have more power than you will ever know. Take care you use them well.