The damage of insults and putdowns can last for a lifetime.

What kind of a human you will be depends largely on how you utilize the greatest gifts the Creator gave you: Your ability to think and speak.

Every time you speak to another person you have a choice to make: What should I say to this person right now and how should I say it?

A wise and kind choice of words will elevate you and enable the person you are speaking with to feel good in the present and will help build his self-image.

It is a great misuse of this awesome gift to cause other people pain with your words. The Talmud states that it is a worse crime to cause pain with words than to cheat another person financially. Why? Money can be returned. Words, once said, can never be taken back. The harm and damage of insults and putdowns can last for a lifetime.

When you insult someone and cause distress with your words, you are striking against the dignity of the other person. The highest level of kindness is to build someone's self-image. For the same reason, the worst crime is to rob someone of self-esteem and lower their self-image.

Most people aren't totally aware of the great harm they cause when they make destructive and demoralizing statements and when they hurt others with offensive and disrespectful speech. It's so easy to make counterproductive comments and ask non-constructive questions. There are many forms of subtle negative statements.

Very few people are truly mean and sadistic. But everyone gets frustrated, even angry at times. These feelings are the breeding ground of comments that hurt and inflict pain.

Ask any counselor or therapist and you will hear of the great damage caused to children who were insulted by their parents and teachers, siblings and peers, friends and neighbors. The unseen scars of hurtful words cause pain and anguish over and over again.

Ask any marriage counselor and you will hear of the mutual damage and pain caused to husbands and wives by the painful statements that were said out of frustration and anger. Even the nicest people speak in ways they shouldn't when they are in a bad mood.

What is the solution to this problem of epidemic proportions? We must all gain a greater awareness of what we are actually saying. Fortunately there is a new tool on the market that will give us the awareness we all desperately need.

The Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation has recently produced an amazing book , Positive Word Power (Artscroll publications). It is a very practical and fascinating guide to the Torah's wisdom on human interaction arranged for daily study.

If you speak to others, you need to read this tremendous book.

One reading of the book will already give you a deeper and heightened awareness of the power of your words. You build a better world with the words you speak when you speak wisely and kindly. You destroy lives when you do the opposite.

Everyone who reads this book will recall times when others caused them pain with what they said. Hopefully this will serve as a motivator to be more careful from now on with what we say.

Every parent and teacher needs to read this. And so does every husband and wife. And so does every brother and sister. And so does every neighbor and classmate. And so does anyone who buys or sells. And so does anyone who asks questions to another person or needs to answer the questions of anyone else. To put it concisely: If you speak to others, you need to read this tremendous book. Everyone you speak to will be glad you did.

Our emotional states have a tremendous impact on what we say and how we say it. After reading this book, I gained greater awareness that:

• When we are hungry and tired, we need to be especially careful with how we speak.

• When we feel frustrated in an interaction with someone, we must be careful to avoid sarcastic remarks.

• When we are angry at someone and feel like letting him know how we feel, we need to master the self-control necessary to speak in a way that will express our true concerns without belittling or shaming the other person.

• When we are involved in an argument with someone, we need to remember to remain calm and centered and to continuously speak in ways that are an expression of mutual respect.

• The most important (and hardest!) point to keep in mind is: "Think before you speak!"

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