When I was in year 2 my best friend’s name was Prathanna and he was the best colour-inner I’d ever met. He’d colour the trees pink and orange and blue, and the sky purple, and the flowers green. He’d fill in the white spaces with solid, vivid colours that danced on the page and made my imagination run wild.
In later years I felt compelled to replicate his style in primary school art class. Only to be shot down by the art ‘teacher’ with the words, “too child-like, too undeveloped; demonstrates no understanding of colour”. Some memories cut deep. At 11 years old I was taught that self-expression was an action open to judgement, and as such should be carefully monitored.
The time was not long following my parent’s divorce. I was at a new school. I’d just started getting my period. My whole world felt new and overwhelming.
My mum had bought a new house and for the first time in our lives we were allowed to paint our rooms any colour we liked. Colour began to represent a big part of my self-expression. Colour was redefining who I was and where our lives were headed. Colour made me feel happy. Colour (and my choice and use of it) made me feel unique. I was also bridging the gap between childhood and adulthood…is there any wonder I was reaching out to my innocence, grasping to keep hold of times passed?
Fortunately, my achiever personality usually means I come out swinging in response to statements like these. I would go on to be awarded top student in my graduating year for TEE Art, and I’d make coloured stockings my signature addition to the school uniform. Nonetheless, his words still impacted me (evidenced by the fact that I remember them so clearly 24 years on). Albeit subtly, words and statements of this nature heard and felt from many people in my life, have moulded together to form internal blocks around self-expression. Created so easily by a cumulation of seemingly insignificant phrases, yet they take years of dedicated focus and work to breakdown and unravel.
If only my teacher had realised the impact that one disjointed sentence would have on me. I know he would have forgotten his words no sooner had they rolled off his tongue. He wasn’t a bad person, not at all, he just didn’t take the time to stop, to think and to consider before he spoke.
We are fragile beings. It takes very little to divert our course in life. My husband still talks about the teacher in primary school who told him he talked too much. My mum, the teacher that made her stand up and read out loud in class because she had trouble pronouncing some words.
Nobody is perfect. We will say the wrong thing at the wrong time on countless occasions throughout the duration of our lives. But perhaps by being more aware of the impact our words can have on others, we can reduce the number of these incidences in our life time.
It’s about understanding the part you play in the lives of others. It’s about kindness. It’s about compassion. It’s about really taking the time to stop and simply listen. It’s about giving people the benefit of the doubt. It's about asking yourself whether your words will colour or stain the souls of others.
It’s about knowing the ripple effect our words can have. It’s about giving careful consideration to the words before letting them roll of your tongue. “Is it spoken at the right time? Is it spoken in truth? Is it spoken affectionately? Is it spoken beneficially? Is it spoken with a mind of good-will?” * By giving consideration to these five questions, the flow of energy your words will carry will be positive and empowering to all those who hear and feel them.
*Statement recorded in the Vaca Sutta ( AN 5.198) slightly reworded for purpose of blog.