Now that Martha could talk, there was no stopping her.
She said exactly what was on her mind.
She made embarrassing comments.
And, she always told the truth.
Occasionally she wondered why her family was often mad at her.
But she kept on talking.
from Martha Speaks
written and illustrated by Susan Meddaugh
Houghton Mifflin Company, 1992
Okay, I know. Martha (quoted above) is a dog who ate alphabet soup. The letters went to her brain, not her stomach, rearranged themselves, and Martha talked. She said exactly what was on her mind.
It is not always a good idea to say what is on your mind. Protecting someone’s feelings is a reason. Avoiding embarrassing situations, maybe.
It depends on the situation.
Once, yes, only once, my mom washed my mouth out with soap. Mom marched my little self into the bathroom, put me on the closed toilet seat, picked up the bar of Ivory, and told me to open up. If she was as surprised as I was, she never let on. It seems so out of her character, that I have a hard time trusting my memory.
But I know it happened.
I was very young. I don’t remember what I said. Maybe a swear word. Maybe I repeated some bathroom talk. I would have been made to apologize if I had hurt someone’s feelings or embarrassed anyone with a comment.
Mom had bat-ears. She could hear the newspaper rustle two rooms away and know my dad had fallen asleep in his chair. Again.
One time, years after the soap incident, I was getting ready for school. I was in High School by now and didn’t always say things in the most polite way. I was usually very careful around Mom, though.
I don’t remember exactly *why* I said what I said, but I know I said it. The “s” word. Apparently I had not muttered it under my breath.
Mom called up from the bottom of the steps, “I heard something coming out of your room!”
I panicked. A mouse? A squirrel? Surely she couldn’t hear a centipede. Our house was plagued with them every spring.
“What?” I screamed.
“A word I never want to hear coming out of your mouth again!”
I almost collapsed with relief. Only a word. I vowed to be more careful around my mother.
Fact is, my mom taught me to be careful with my words. Not only to use proper grammar. She was a stickler about that, and I thank her almost every day.
She taught me that words are powerful things. She taught me that talking about a problem is the first step toward solving it. And she taught me that finding solutions can be messy.
Words are tools. When big people in high places get hurt, it is not only because we use our words. It is because others can know what really happened.
When we use our words carefully, truthfully, and kindly we can move mountains.