Words That Matter, Part 2

By Greg Baer M.D.

November 16, 2015

We are often careless with our words, and some of them are so laden with negative meanings that we cause great harm without realizing it. Recently I began a discussion of such words

Words That Really Matter

and now we'll continue with another one:


We love to use this word:
“I can’t make it.”
“I can’t do it.”
“I couldn’t do it.”

There isn’t a day where I don’t hear this word many times. Why are we fond of it? Because the moment we say “I can’t,” we are free of all responsibility to do that thing. “Can’t” is an escape hatch, a get-out-of-jail-free card.

Without an underpinning of Real Love in our lives, we’re almost forced to say “can’t,” because we couldn’t live with speaking the truth:

  • “I could have been on time, but I’m such an incompetent parent and disorganized person that I never allow enough time to prepare to leave, not to mention travel time that would allow for traffic and other delays.”
  • “I could do what you’ve asked, but I might break a sweat, I might miss my favorite television show, or I might have to take responsibility for a decision or two and actually risk making a mistake. Inconceivable that I would agree to such a thing.”
  •  “I can do that. I know how, but I’d have to exercise my brain, for goodness’ sake. And if I succeed, everybody will know I can do it, and then other people might ask me to do it again.”
  • “I feel so worthless that I avoid all requests and risks. I couldn’t bear failing and feeling even worse about myself.”

We have so little familiarity with the truth and exposing ourselves to possible disapproval that most of us simply don’t know what to say when asked to do something we don’t want to do. It might help to know of some possible answers, although I emphasize that these are possible only if we already have enough Real Love in our lives:

  • “What you’ve asked is right at the edge of what I can do. Sorry, but I’m too afraid of making a mistake to want to be willing to try that.”
  • “No way I feel comfortable doing that by myself. Maybe if I had somebody who was helping me every step of the way, I could give it a shot.”
  • “I’ve just got too many other things going on, and this would take me to the limit. So I could say yes, but I’d regret it later. Maybe another time.”
  • “I may not be able to do what you’ve asked, but I CAN do something else that might work as well, possibly better. And I’d feel more competent and confident. Can you live with that?”
  • “No, I just don’t want to.”

In future blogs we’ll discuss more words that have a much greater negative effect than we realize or intend.

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About the author 

Greg Baer, M.D.

I am the founder of The Real Love® Company, Inc, a non-profit organization. Following the sale of my successful ophthalmology practice I have dedicated the past 25 years to teaching people a remarkable process that replaces all of life's "crazy" with peace, confidence and meaning in various aspects of their personal lives, including parenting, marriages, the workplace and more.

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