This week’s Torah portion, Parashat Balak, allows us to consider the power of words – both positive and negative. A Moabite King named Balak hires a non-Israelite prophet named Balaam to curse the Israelites; yet on three occasions God causes words of blessing to come forth from Balaam’s mouth.
Rather than focusing on the negativity that was intended to be spoken by Balaam and on the rhetoric we hear outside ourselves on daily basis, I began thinking about the power of self-talk and the impact of the words we may utter.
I decided to play a game with myself to see how my own thoughts may impact me negatively. The rules of my game included keeping track of how many times I said (or thought about) phrases like “I wish I would’ve… or could’ve…,” “I shouldn’t have…,” and “if only I …”—after all, we are reading the Book of Numbers and I like to count, so this seemed like an interesting exercise that might yield something important for this week’s blog. A low score was the goal.
I was aghast at my discovery. The high number astounded me. I asked myself how a generally-positive person with a healthy mindset about most things (me!) could have gotten such a high score in this activity (another “could’ve’.) I recounted. Twice. I demanded a do-over.
Then reality sunk in. Life isn’t a game. It’s real and our psyche is at stake. Self-talk contributes to our soul, mind, and spirit. Our words, whether positive or negative, whether directed outward or inward, have power and impact on our reality.
So what is Balak about to me? It’s about respecting ourselves. It’s about caring, not only for others, but for ourselves. It’s about giving ourselves a break. And, yes – it’s about turning a curse into a blessing – the blessing of kindness.