Words Can Give or Steal Joy

Words have a lot of power. They can be a source of encouragement or hurt and it all depends on how they are used.

This past weekend Mark and I participated in our first triathlon. It was a great event for beginners as the swim on Friday in a pool and the bike/run portion on Saturday morning. It was a good race to practice doing a multi-event race before committing to a longer one.

However, a big part of me was still nervous about the swim. I knew that I could finish the 750-yard distance but feared that it would take me so long that the guy timing me may fall asleep and then I’d have to start all over.

My time to swim arrived and when I jumped into the water arms felt paralyzed as nervous energy darted from my heart to my limbs. I had set a goal to beat 20 minutes but the lead in my arms made it feel unrealistic.

I began swimming and at the end of my first lap I was ready to take a break but as I turned to begin my second lap, I heard a familiar voice behind me. It was a friend from the tri-club. She had just finished her swim and had stayed to cheer me on.

Each mid-point I was tempted to stop and rest, but my friend remained at the end of my lane, cheering for me. In my vanity, I was too embarrassed to stop with her watching me and her words kept me going.

She was contagious. By my final lap, she had the guy timing me cheering for me too and I finished with a time of 14:28!

I was giddy. A goal had been accomplished and my friend’s words helped get me there.

The next morning, friends and family cheered me through the bike and run portion. At the end of the run one of my coaches met me at the finish line and greeted me with a hug and words of encouragement.

It was a great morning.

We went to a pre-Easter service that afternoon. A friend asked about the race and when I told him about the divided events he replied, “Oh, that’s not a real triathlon.”


Now I know my friend didn’t mean any harm with his words. They didn’t hurt my feelings – but the did steal my joy. A healthy joy that I was, well…enjoying. I have been sidelined for the past few years due to three knee surgeries and I was excited to participate in a race again.

It made me wonder how many times that I may have spoken without thinking and may have robbed someone else of his or her joy.

Words have the power to both give and steal joy. I’m going to work harder to speak words that give instead of taking away.

Has their been a time when words of others gave or stole you joy?

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