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You can never imagine the power of a kind word. A single word of praise, encouragement or acclaim can have a remarkable effect on a person’s psyche. Ben Carson in the movie Gifted Hands was often ridiculed as the dullest student in class while growing up, but he finally rose to become what he eventually became because of his mother. She spent most of her time during his childhood encouraging him, praising his little efforts, acclaiming his minute successes, telling him that he could excel and that he was more than what his mates or teachers said he was. She believed in his hidden genius and always encouraged him to expend a little more effort, persevere a little longer. Gradually, heeding his mother’ words rather than those of his teachers and peers, he began to apply himself. Eventually, he rose to become one of the world most renowned cardiac-surgeon and the first ever to perform a successful cardiac-surgery.

Dr. Ben Carson always had his hands. However, had his mother done nothing to counter the effect of his teachers and peers negative attitudes and actions towards him, his gifted hands would never have materialised. He probably would not have gone to college and would have ended up like most of the black kids of his days; doing drugs and then transitioning to crime and prison. But with words of praise, encouragement and acclaim; making sure to provide the conducive environment and support for her children, she ensured that Ben remained in school. Ben on his own part, took up the challenge where his mother left off and finished what she started. With constant application, imagination and perseverance, the gift in his hands materialised and the rest is what we know today.

B. F. Skinner a renowned psychologist argued that behavior is acquired mostly by nurture and not nature. This simply means that the behaviors we exhibit are learned through conditioned response to specific training, environment stimulus and to the socialization process we are exposed to. This contradicts the belief that we are born with specific set of behaviors i.e. the premise of the nature theory. Going by Skinner’s theory, if behavior is acquired by nurture, then it can be safe to assume that negative attitudes, behavior and actions we exhibit have all been learned and as such can be unlearned. Likewise, better and more positive ones can be learned or acquired.

Everyone loves to be celebrated. No one likes to be tolerated or ignored. You will never know the truth of this saying until you find yourself in a situation where you are constantly being tolerated or worse still just ignored. Research has shown that individuals and groups thrive better in conditions where they are acknowledged and praised as it serves as a catalyst and inspires them to do more. This is not to say that we must constantly give false praise or acclaim when it is not necessary, but when we find ourselves in a situation where we instinctively react in the negative by constantly poking fun at people for our own amusement, it is best we check this negative attitude. Going by Dr. Carson’s antecedents, your negative attitude might just be causing the flower with another individual to wither away and perish. Unlearn this attitude today. It was learned. Learn a more positive one and give that individual a chance to grow and blossom.

That quiet girl in your classroom or the clumsy man in your office that is constantly at the receiving end of all unpleasant jokes and actions may not be all that quiet or clumsy in a different environment where he or she is celebrated and encouraged. If you are observant and honest enough, you will discover that they are often the doers, the ones who most often get things done in their quiet ways without so much of a fuse and that they get it done faster and more accurately than any of the others. The next time you set your eyes upon a quiet or shy or clumsy one and a quick, funny but derisive word comes to mind, pause, take a deep breath and either refrain from voicing it or say a kind word in its place. The instinct to ridicule is not in your genes i.e. you were not born with it but it is a negative behavior you picked up while growing up.

Everyone has his/her unique talents. Assertiveness may not be some people’s strong point but there is always something good and worth appreciating about every individual. Some may need more support and encouragement and a kind word now and then to help them manifest their hidden gifts. Some, those of tender-heart, given the abrasiveness of the characters around them, will withdraw into themselves, burying their gifts further within them for life. Others will simply remove themselves from the environment in which they are being suppressed and seek an environment where they will be celebrated.

Be it in school, in the home, the community, the office or wherever this happens, when you act in a way that restrains the talents or creativity or the abilities of people around, you inhibit them from expressing themselves fully. This is akin to using a bucket to cover a lighted candle. The flame will quench and in the long run, the abuser ends up the loser. On the other hand, it will benefit you more to help kindle the flames to ignite and glow, for then, not only will it light up the world around you, it will light you up too. Begin today to learn more positive attitudes and behaviors and help awaken the Gifted Hands in the world around you.