May 4, 2010
Notice the words we use that open our hearts to others and the words that others use to draw us closer to them.
Language exerts hidden power, like a moon on the tides. — Rita Mae Brown
Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind. — Rudyard Kipling
Language can create both war and peace. It causes one person to plant a sign in her front yard in favor of a bond issue and her neighbor to support those against the bond. It can send one person to Africa to train poor people to become budding entrepreneurs and another to blow up an airplane.
There is no doubt that words have the power to draw us closer or tear us apart.
When someone uses words that are critical of us or express ideas with which we disagree, we are quick to point out the flaws in their argument or the negative tone in their voice. On the other hand, we are seldom as sensitive to the words we use when we speak, when we twitter about someone with whom we disagree, when we share a story on Facebook, when we feel overworked, and when we have co-workers who get on our nerves.
Might you be ready for a twenty-four hour challenge?
What do you think would happen if, for the next twenty-four hours, you consciously chose to use words that were gentler and more loving? If feeling warmly toward someone with whom you have a great deal of difficulty seems beyond the realm of possibility, what do you think would happen if, for the next twenty-four hours, you consciously chose to use words that would not exacerbate the problem? And what would happen if you hold a very strong position about some political issue (there is no dearth of possible topics these days) and, for the next twenty-four hours, you refrain from denigrating those who hold opposite positions?
Thinking before you speak, or twitter, or write anything may slow down the speed with which you type the words or allow the words to come out of your mouth; it’s always difficult to speak rapidly when we pay close attention to what we say. But just imagine the effect we would have on the world if all of us spoke with the intention to be less harsh and negative in the words we use, even when we hold firmly to our opinions.
Although the words you use may be few, they can have a huge effect, just as small actions can have a large effect. For example, a trash can in a large zoo was disguised as a lion — with a voice-activating system that had the lion growl “Thank you” when a child threw in a bit of trash. Not only was the area next to the trash can spotless, but you couldn’t find a scrap of paper or candy wrapper in the whole zoo!
Simple words can be just as powerful.
I don’t know if the words I write today will reach a few people or many. However, I am choosing to use words that might inspire you to live with the intention of speaking kindly to everyone you meet today, even those you don’t like. At the same time, I am committed to making certain my own words are joyful and loving.
If we are willing to extend ourselves outside the groups and tribes in which we feel comfortable (and where it is easy to make loving and encouraging statements), the ripple effect around the globe might bring us all a little closer than we were before today began. [See Who is in Your Tribe?]
Judith Sherven and James Sniechowski, talented husband-and-wife therapists and authors of several books on relationships, wrote in their newsletter a few years ago about “Loving Endearments,” which is well illustrated in the following (reprinted with permission):
“Large, grand gestures are wonderful when you can make them happen. But real, long-lasting, day-to-day love is made up of countless little things. They are the brick and mortar of what two people build together. The grand gestures are like chandeliers, or swimming pools, or expensive silverware and china. They bring elegance and refinement and their own kind of beauty, a beauty that’s hard to miss, but how often will you bring out the fine china, or keep the chandelier lit? And how often will you eat off your regular, daily plates and use the table lamp to give you the light you need?
We emphasize the small things because they are available everyday.
When we drive together, whether we’re on a short or long trip, one of us will reach out and simply take the other’s hand. Often we don’t say anything about it. We just do it. It’s a small moment that affirms and confirms our love for one another . . . and . . . all it takes is the realization of how important such a gesture can be and the willingness to follow through when the impulse arises.
Keep in mind the small endearments. They are the foundation.”
Words are the foundation for war or peace. Let us make ours build peace.
I encourage you to seriously consider these questions today.
ASK YOURSELF THESE QUESTIONS
- Am I willing to spend twenty-four hours conscious of the words I use?
- Am I willing to only use words that will improve relationships at home and in the world at large?
- What quotations, affirmations, or scripture verses have helped me feel more connected with others and inspired me to lead a kinder, more peaceful life?
I would especially love to have you share your answer to the last question. It would be interesting to know what quotations, affirmations, and scripture verses most encourage people to feel more closely connected with others.