A Remembrance of the Power of Words


Sometimes I forget the power of language, how the very transmission of words onto a page or into another set of ears can cut or mend the very fabric of my life. When bad things have happened to me, I feel like I can trace their development to specific utterances. And by that, I don’t mean that words are necessarily magic incantations, though they certainly can be, when woven intentionally and powerfully by poets and the like. What I mean is that when I’ve said certain things, I’ve changed my own habits of mind, thus altering my behavior. This subtle shift in decision-making, initiated by the concrete translation of thought into words, alters my own awareness, either inhibiting or abetting my actions.

So I’ve re-remembered that I must be careful what I speak. Careful not in a paranoiac sense, but in the sense of a constant vigilance against speaking things against other people that I would not feel comfortable broadcasting to the whole world. This is the sort of talk that I’m usually fairly resistant to, as I’ve always disliked gossip. But perhaps the environment of a public school has lowered my immunity. Whatever the case may be, yours truly feels the need to be more guarded against speaking negative words. Because when one has uttered a negative word, it results in a subtle alteration of mind and body that spreads ripples into the world.

I want to strive to speak things that add value to life, not detract from it. I want to speak words that mends wounds, not creates them. And this does not mean that I would shy from speaking a hard truth when it is necessary–but rather that those hard truths must be delivered directly to the person that needs to hear them.

I’m not speaking against venting. I suppose there will always be a time and place for that. But venting needs to be done strategically, with brothers or sisters in arms. And it needs to be done with the ultimate goal of productive action, the ultimate goal of healing.

But mostly, it seems that the best strategy is to attempt to deflect negativity from others, while keeping personal negativity directed inward. The downward spiral of negativity is avoidable only by speaking the right words, the words that mend, the words that heal, the words that are vetted and chosen to make the world a place worth living in for another moment.

This is certainly not easy. But well worth my life.

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Author: manderson

I live in NYC.

1 thought on “A Remembrance of the Power of Words”

  1. As Dad suggested, “If you don’t have something good to say, keep your mouth shut!” On a more complicated level, it is clear that when people interact there is a flow of feeling, or energy, going from one to the other, that impacts them for the better or worse. That is why optimists do better in life and are happier than pessimists. Don’t you know some people that always leave you feeling better, and others that seem to suck the joy out of life? That is why good listeners and caring individuals can give comfort, and their opposites can’t.

    This post reminded me of James Redfield’s book–The Celestine Prophecy–which is a kind of spiritual fantasy-adventure looking in the jungles of Peru for an ancient Mayan manuscript containing key lessons of life. The theme is about the energy between people–recorded in nine “insights,” and extols the religious virtues of love and selflessness, the need for interconnectedness, and the opportunity to share and build on positive forces within each of us human beings, with emphasis on the mutual benefit of shared growth.

    Clearly, interpersonal exchanges can, as this Manderson post indicates, “. . .result in a subtle alteration of mind and body that spreads ripples into the world.” In that vein, on the last page, Redfield writes of the need for such positive actions, because “Otherwise the whole human race can go back to pretending that life is about having power over others and exploiting the planet.”

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