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Choose Your Words Wisely

by Rebecca Buttermore September 29, 2014

The phrase “Don’t work too hard today!”is forever ingrained in my head!  Both of my parents were teachers.  My dad taught high school while my mom taught elementary school, and my father would always leave the house first in the morning.

“Goodbye, Bob!” My mother would call from the kitchen. “Don’t work too hard today,” she would add. And he would be on his way.

Now that they are retired, my mom watches my boys on days that I’m working.  If she’s at my house when I’m leaving for work, I get the same send off.  “Have a good day…and don’t work too hard!” Kids holding sign

As I was driving one morning, I pondered the literal meaning of those words and I became confused. What did my mother really mean?? I always heard the words and knew she was wishing us a good day out there in the world, but the concept of not working hard was never endorsed or demonstrated in my parent’s household.

Both of my parents were and continue to be extremely hard workers and they have always given that little bit extra. They have always expected the same from us. So what’s up with my mom’s expression? In this case, it seems that there is a clear distinction between my mom’s expression and the intention behind it.  What she was really trying to say is “I love you, I care about you, please take the time to take care of yourself as well.”   Unfortunately, we often get sucked into the expression and forget to look beyond it to the intended message.

What if I had actually taken her words literally all these years?  Would I have turned out to be a lazy lump and not worked hard a day in my life? The words we choose have a deep impact on our beliefs, our actions and the people around us.

As I waited in my son’s school office last week, a father brought his daughter in late to school. He sent her off down the hall, and his parting words were “Be organized!  I love you!”  There was absolute love in his tone and actions, but “Be organized?” Those were curious parting words.

What do we say to our children every day that has become more of an expression than an intention?  Are we saying what we actually mean and desire for them? I don’t know.  I’m sure it’s different for each of us, but I’m curious to hear some of the daily phrases that you say or hear that are expressions rather than intentions.


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