Scripts in our Heads

My daughter sent out an appeal. Her oldest son wanted to go to the Alabama Theatre and see "Jaws." I and my son volunteered, but not without my first expressing caution.

"He's only 10," I said. "Are you sure you want him to see this movie?"

"Yes," she said. "It might make him more cautious when we're at the beach!"

We enjoyed our guys outing, and I was impressed with the theatre. It had been many years since I attended something there, and its classic design and the "Mighty Wurlitzer" organ were wonderful. And it was fun seeing the old film on big screen again.

The trip reminded me of a woman I knew in north Alabama who said she hummed the Jaws theme when her children were on the beach since she wanted to caution them about getting too far away!

I suppose we all hear John Williams' classic movie theme and the bass fiddle in our mind when we think of sharks.

But that's not the only thing we hear in our minds. Research shows we store a lot of things there, including self-perception, or who we think ourselves to be.

I met Dr. John Howell a number of years ago and told him of my appreciation for a book he'd written on marriage. In the book he told about a counselee who grew up feeling worthless. In therapy she revealed her father's most-often spoken words to her were, "You're stupid." She grew up feeling that she was.

Whereas it's hard to imagine a father saying this kind of thing, it's true we all remember the words of others. Sometimes they used words of affirmation that made us feel better about ourselves, and sometimes they spoke thoughtless words that made us feel degraded.

Solomon wrote in Proverbs 18:21, "The tongue has the power of life and death." And the New Testament writer James insisted that just as a small rudder steers a large ship, so the tongue controls the course of our lives (James 3:4).

Followers of Christ must do all we can to avoid devaluing others with our words, and to use our words instead to add value to others. We see this when parents affirm children for their work. Their work may have been of little value, but the parent says, "Thank you for helping me! You're such a good helper!" This kind of affirmation makes the child feel valuable and needed, and gives incentive for him or her to try even harder.

We all have scripts in our heads that others put there. We can't do much about them, but we are in charge of the scripts we put in the minds of others.