the power of the spoken word

“Spoken words have power beyond measure.”

 – Debasish Mridha

I have written here, in the past, about the power of words. What returns me to this truth today is the theme which continues to dominate the collective psyche related to the words used by those who hold extremely visible positions of responsibility.

“All I need is a sheet of paper and something to write with, and then I can turn the world upside down.”

-Friedrich Nietzsche

I believe that Niestzsche (1844-1900) was definitely on to something when these words were spoken or written by him many years ago. The process of writing is necessarily slow, provided it is literally pen or pencil to paper. However, today we have all manner of media and methods to express our latest joys or our latest frustrations; and these are the least of what generally occurs on the various platforms referred to as social media, oxymoronic as the term for that phenomenon is. Being engaged in that arena keeps many people off balance, constantly triggered and more often reacting – either outwardly or inwardly stuffing responses lest they get drawn into the fray. In either case, it is simply not healthy. The impact of these feelings, reactions and responses on our physical bodies is not positive and cannot be minimized.

Nietstzsche’s “paper and something to write with” of yesterday is the social media phenomenon of today. The fingers race across the keyboards of smartphones, notebooks, and computers without passing through any other part of our being.  Our hearts are completely left out of this fast-paced, reactive process when words have been published which diminish or otherwise denigrate another individual or group.

To be completely forthcoming, I offer this. I lived in the district of the representative currently targeted by the President of the US. I spent a lot of time in the City of Baltimore, which I came to love and appreciate for its diversity, culture and location. To see the negative words, which have been spewed numbers of times and directed primarily to minorities, continue unabated, is deeply sad and disturbing. I now live in a city where those divisions spilled into the streets two years ago and were deemed by this President to have “…had some very fine people on both sides.”

I am not going to use this space as a place to jump into the war of words currently ongoing in our national political discourse.

I AM encouraging us all to become mindful of what we say, to whom we say it and how we offer our perspectives or beliefs. We are human. We have feelings. Some of us feel more anger than love. We get to feel our feelings. It is how we express those feelings – especially the painful, angry, fearful ones – that can make a difference in the quality of our lives and most certainly in the lives of those who may be the recipients of our projections. Whether we project our anger (fear) onto those closest to us or to many who are nameless and faceless to us, we are having an impact that will be lasting. Is this how we wish to be remembered – individually or collectively?  Or do we wish to be remembered for loving; offering healing, and supporting those who are most in need?

Although my children are grown and have families of their own, I am mindful of the eyes and hearts of the children watching all of the behavior of the adults who are behaving as they do. Our anger teaches them how to be and what is acceptable behavior. Our loving approach to extremely difficult events and experiences also teaches them what is acceptable…and what feels better.

I am reminded of a post that I read recently that amplifies the point: Sacred Flower . What if we all regarded our relationships this way?

Today, tomorrow and into the week, we will have opportunities to speak. Whether we speak kindly or we choose to use harsh words, we will feel the effects. If not right away, we will feel them.

Pause before you speak. If what is arising within is anger, pause to ask what is hurting within before you hurl those angry words. As we learn to slow down and listen, and to write with pen or pencil rather than surfing the wave of keys with our fingers, we allow ourselves the necessary time to pause and reflect, and most importantly to discern whether speaking is necessary and if so, how might we speak with less vitriol. Remember, what we do to others (that includes angry words) we also do to ourselves.

I leave you with this quote from Henri Nouwen, as a gentle reminder to carry with you as you begin this new week.

Did I offer peace today? Did I bring a smile to someone’s face? Did I say words of healing? Did I let go of my anger and resentment? Did I forgive? Did I love? These are the real questions. I must trust that the little bit of love that I sow now will bear many fruits, here in this world and the life to come.

Love and peace to you all.

7 thoughts on “the power of the spoken word

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