Rumi’s Sufi teachings focus on developing control. Consider this teaching:

“Words , in themselves, are of no importance. You treat a visitor well, and speak a few kind words to him. He is happy. But if you treat another man to a few words of abuse, he will be hurt. Can a few words really mean happiness or sadness? These are secondary factors, and not real ones. They affect people who are weak.”

This reminds me of the childhood saying, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me!” As much as one may believe this to be true, actually living these words can be a different matter. Somewhere along the line, I believe we somehow learned to seek validation from others. We allowed words to gain power over our moods and behaviors. We gave up our control over ourselves and instead gave in to constantly changing emotions…feeling up when someone says something positive about us…and down when we receive some criticism.

Building inner strength really means developing control over yourself. Knowing who you really are means becoming less sensitive to the words, emotions, and opinions of everyone else…to temper your own reactions to be more measured and less reactive.

So, can a few words really mean happiness or sadness? Only if you let them.

Photo source: cut the strings!