Burying “I Can’t”

As I was pulling out of the parking lot at Greene Publishing today, my oldest asked me about the headstones that were in front of the building. As I read each of the headstones out loud, I explained to him that there weren’t real people buried there, it was all figurative. Years ago, Mr. Tommy Greene wanted to show his determination and figuratively buried, “I Can’t”, “Impossible”, “But”, and “If”.

These headstones immediately reminded me of my amazing middle school English teacher who did something very similar with us. She dressed up in a nice jacket and led the class outside to a back field. We had a grand ceremony where we buried, “I Can’t”. I was so inspired by this physical death of such a powerful phrase that it has stuck with me all of these years. Even when I was teaching elementary school and now as I teach college students, I always remind my students that “I Can’t” is not an option. “I’ll Try”, “I Can”, and “I Will” are much better substitutes.

I’m so grateful for all of the encouragement I received from my parents, teachers, and influential adults in my growing up years. As I work with college students now, I end up doing a lot of damage control because these students have been told that they were worthless, no good, and that they would never amount to anything. I spend so much of my time building up these students, pointing out their giftings, and helping them realize their full potential. I’m saddened that many of them have never received encouragement and positive praise. Full grown adults, many with families of their own, have never been encouraged to reach their full potential. Let that sink in.

Our words are so powerful. How we speak to our children, how we allow our children to speak to other children, how we speak to colleagues and friends, and how we speak to ourselves can either build up or tear down. I want my words to build up, not tear down. I want to encourage those around me to believe that they can and I want to be their biggest cheerleader in all of their endeavors.

We all have a choice: we can either bury, “I Can’t,” and replace it with, “I Can,” or we can bury, “I Can’t,” in the depth of someone else’s soul and weigh them down with worthlessness for the rest of their life. Words are absolutely that powerful. Choose them carefully.

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