Theresa Meacham

Theresa Meacham at the News-Gazette on Tuesday, May 4, 2021.

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Have you heard that money is sticky?

It’s true, but I’d bet mine that words are stickier.

I remember words spoken to me and over me as far back as my first years in grade school. Not all of them, just some. I remember specific words that made me feel big and others that made me feel small.

We all have had moments where what we heard continued to echo and still does right up to now. We’ll remember certain comments or conversations for the rest of our lives.

A friend once told me that every night before bed, she tucks her children in and tells them, “You’re my greatest joy.”

I now do the same with my own boys. I hope those four words stick.

As a newly married 21-year-old, I hopped a plane to Austria with my husband. I was anxious and more than a little scared. I’d never lived more than 25 minutes away from my hometown.

Trent’s words on that airplane were simple, but they stuck: “I’m not married to anything but you. We’re never stuck. If we need to go home, we can.”

He told me those words each year for the next nine years as we boarded planes temporarily homebound to Europe. And he’d go on to remind me of them on hard and homesick days throughout.

Eight months into raising twins overseas, I was running on empty. Trent was out of town a few days a week, and I had no help.

I made him make good on his promise.

I pulled the card, but it helped that he’d already given me the words with which to do it. We went home.

Words are powerful. And they’re particularly powerful in tough moments or amid big decisions.

The interesting thing about words is we don’t always get to choose which ones stick, whether it’s the ones we speak or the ones we hear.

What do we get to choose?

We decide which ones we say and what to do with the ones we hear.

Author Jon Acuff’s book “Soundtracks” explores the power of the words we perpetuate in our heads.

He says thoughts are not so much something we have, but something we hone.

And we should.

I must’ve asked my 2-year-old son to repeat it 10 times throughout the morning: “Even when things don’t go my way, I can still have a good attitude.”

I had him repeat it when he didn’t get the toy he wanted.

I had him repeat it when he nearly melted down at the park for having to leave.

I had him repeat it when he acted out toward his brother, who was drinking from a water bottle he wanted.

Like my husband did for me, I was hoping to equip my son with better words for times when breaks are tough.

Fast forward to that afternoon, and a few of my petty hopes for the day fell through.

A few minor expectations weren’t met.

A few plans were shifted.

I came close to complaining in self-pity when I remembered my 2-year-old’s words in a game of repeat-after-me: Even when things don’t go my way, I can still have a good attitude.

In giving him words to hold onto, I had unknowingly gifted them to myself, too.

What are the words we’re repeating?

Either to ourselves or to others — spouses, children, colleagues or classmates. What are the soundtracks in our head, and what are those we’re speaking into others’?

There are few things more powerful than getting intentional about our words.

Let’s speak life.

And when we find that it hasn’t been spoken to us, we’ll hone it into something better.

Theresa Meacham’s column appears Wednesday in The News-Gazette. She can be reached at theresam

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