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Antoinette Tuff: How Her Words Healed

     If anyone ever doubted the magnitude of words, this week's dramatic event that played out in a lengthy 911 call confirms that words are powerful weapons for justice.  Antoinette Tuff is a school bookkeeper at a charter school in Decatur, GA.  When faced with a mentally unstable gunman toting 500 rounds of ammunition and an AK47 that he actually used on occasion (fortunately without hurting anyone), she used words of compassion, healing, empathy, and love.  The greatest of these was love.  Too often when given the opportunity, we overlook the chance to speak love to others.  We may find it awkward when dealing with people other than our family members.  And yes, it is hard to love those who seem unlovable.  I'm not suggesting you go around to your co-workers and start saying wonderful things you don't mean.  You ought to always be authentic.  To be disingenuous will be very clear to those who can spot a fake.  But to speak love is to be compassionate, encouraging, humble. 
    Antoinette literally said the word to the perpetrator ("I love you") and she showed it in her tone.  Her words were constantly comforting to him ("It's going to be alright.") and empathetic ("We all go through something.") and affectionate with the use of words like "baby" and "sweety".  She seemed to mother him advising him throughout a harrowing ordeal as he had to make rapid decisions in a mind that he admits was unstable.  As a result of her composure and compassion in a highly stressful and dangerous time, no lives were lost including the gunman's.  She is being hailed a hero and rightly so because she helped to save lives.  Most remarkable is that she did it with words and not weapons.  She did it with love and not hate.  She did it without judgment even of her husband who had left her after 33 years of marriage.  She shared her pain but did not judge.  She did not judge the assailant.  She spoke in love.
     How can we follow her example?  When speaking in volatile situations where we are afraid or hurt, how can we stay calm and speak in love?  It can be a difficult thing for a person to do, but it is the most humbling and courageous thing as well.  For those of you who have a hard edge, a rough tone, a bad attitude, this might be a stretch.  But you should never allow your deep-seated hurt and insecurities to force you into a life where you play the victim and everyone else is the aggressor.  Take responsibility when you find yourself constantly at odds with other people.  If your life is more often in turmoil and filled with controversy, hold yourself accountable for how you may be contributing to the discord.  Stop blaming others.  What did you do to fuel the flames?  We can all learn from Antoinette.  What can you do differently in your every day conversations?  At work?  At home?  With your enemies?  How can you use healing words?  Share your thoughts.


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