Embracing words with life-changing power.

Dependable, trustworthy, responsible, and loyal.

If you ask an acquaintance or co-worker to describe me, many would reply with some combination of these adjectives. I meet deadlines, follow through on promises, work out conflict, and strive to exceed expectations. I can’t help it; it’s who I am.

And it’s who I’ve always been. In high school, I was allowed to leave campus during study hall because the secretary knew I’d come right back. When I accidentally smashed the school’s French horn, the band director was happy because he knew he’d get a new one without incident. And, when my parents left me home alone for the weekend, I spent the time attending church services with a friend.

Goody two-shoes. Teacher’s pet. Both disparaging, yet they’re also synonyms for responsible and dependable. They’re strong, foundational, respectable words.

In recent years, however, I’ve realized that I am also so much more. I am playful, engaging, affectionate, and courageous. As I look below the surface, beyond the clichés, these adjectives ring deeper, truer. They are richer, more dimensional.

And they are more vulnerable. They feel risky and subjective, with far more potential to be misunderstood. They are no longer defined and measurable, but messy and deep. They are intimate, and most often expressed in the context of interpersonal relationships.

And that feels scary.

Yet it is when I’m engaging and courageous that I truly connect with those whose lives I touch. When I listen to someone attentively, call out their strengths, empower them, laugh with them, or speak truth into their situation, a simple conversation turns into something transformative. And, at the end of the day, that’s the kind of legacy I want to leave.

How about you? What adjectives are foundational to who you are and who you’ve always been — your “go to” descriptors? How have they served you well?

And what new words would you like to embrace: a bolder, richer version of yourself? What adjectives, if worked deeper into your veins, have the power to enrich the lives of those around you? Will you own them? Will you take advantage of opportunities to exemplify them?

I love the word “courage” because in its original form, it meant “to speak one’s mind by telling one’s heart.” Embracing new words is like speaking with your heart. It’s part of owning your story, loving yourself, and transforming the lives of others through the process.

And it’s one of the bravest and most generous things you will ever do.




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