I love words. Cross word puzzles. Code words. Books. Scripts. Poetry. Words inspire.
Words MATTER. This maxim has become more & more evident as I have gotten older and gotten married. But never has it become more clear than in our current context. All Words matter.
Most American school children were taught “Sticks and Stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” What a positive thought put into such a powerful lie. Children, young people, and even adults today know that words can hurt, and leave lasting scars. The above pithy lie was put out with the good intention of trying to help people not take insults too personally. But in our day and age of social media and images and constant attention to the web world, we know how powerful words can be.
The current context in which I live, in the United States in 2018, I shockingly find that the current occupant of the White House is popular because of, and lives by, hate speech. The long list of those bullied or insulted by Trump and Trumpisms include: the disabled, Mexicans, women, the press, Muslims, President Obama, Senators Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand, and John McCain, transgendered peoples, Palestinians, the NFL and players who take a stand, MLB, Kim Jong-Un, the United Nations, most G8 political leaders, the FBI, James Comey, Republicans, the cast of Hamilton, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Penn Jillette, Common Core, the IRS, various Major Department stores, and the White house itself. By end of his first year, Trump has hurled over 350 insults out on Twitter, one of his chief platforms. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/01/28/upshot/donald-trump-twitter-insults.html/
The most surprising thing is, not that Trump built his presidency upon caustic rhetoric, attack, innuendo, blatant lies, name-calling and outright racist, xenophobic, homophobic, misogynistic, Islamophobic bullying, but that many American constituents parrot this hurtful, not merely politically correct, verbiage.
Words in our current context have become true sticks and stones that wound, hurt, and blatantly, knowingly pull wool over people’s eyes. Not just because we were built on being a decent country with morals, or the dubious rationale we were a Christian nation, but just because it is the right thing to do, we must oppose such hate speech. We must not let it become our new normal.
Recently two very important illustrations showed me clearly how words can matter in a positive manner. They inspire. Words lift up. Words bring clarity. Words define. Words change lives. How they change lives!
A friend’s recent Facebook post depicted how even simple words matter deeply. My friend, Judy, was at a medical appointment, and a nurse came in and asked the usual, “How are you?”
My friend responded typically, "Fine, how are you?" answered by an equally typical "Good. I can't complain."
My friend rejoined with an earnest, "Well, if you did want to complain, I'd listen." Judy, a good listener and people lover, knows that when people share their burdens they get some perspective and relief by finding a way to laugh about the situation.
The nurse, taken aback by my friend’s frankness, felt, her day was blessed. "Most people say, 'If you complain nobody listens anyway,' but here you are telling me you'd listen. Thanks."
Judy assured her new friend that it was her pleasure, especially since they both shared “the condition.“
“The human one! People are pretty much people wherever you go," my friend said smiling.
After sharing more small talk, my friend began to leave and the nurse caught up to her saying: "I want you to know that you have blessed my day and changed my outlook. I left the house in a bad mood but now I'm uplifted. All because you said you'd listen to me." My friend got a little teary because she knew how she had been uplifted too.
It is that simple. Words matter. What we say and how we say it does matter. You never know who is listening. Or what they are hearing on a daily basis. Will you speak the powerful truth and love to them? Will you compose a word of meaning and care? Will your words convey light and life?
If we take another adage at face value, “a picture is worth a thousand words”, than images too can have a potent punch.
My counselor provided the witness of words effecting us deeply on a molecular level. She shared the book, “Messages from Water”, the work of Japanese scientist Dr. Masaru Emoto who showed how water was affected by words. In one set of experiments he played classical music and folksongs and heavy metal music through speakers at containers of water. He took samples of the water and froze it to form crystals. Then he compared the crystalline structure of the various samples. With the different musical pieces, the different water samples produced different shapes. The classical and folk music produced geometric shaped crystals with intricate patterns. The metal music saw the basic shape of the crystal break into pieces.
In another experiment, he took it further. Dr. Emoto and over 300 volunteers stood on the shore of a badly polluted lake in Japan and spoke words of love, peace, and gratitude to the water. The water crystals changed from cloudy broken images before the words to geometric beautiful crystals after the words. This experiment has been repeated successfully at other lakes around the world.
|Above are some of the images from the experiment|
Finally, Dr. Emoto conducted an experiment that affirms what counselors, pastors, psychologists have shared – Words and thoughts matter and impact a person’s well-being. Dr. Emoto taped positive and negative words facing inward in water bottles. He then looked at the water under a microscope and discovered water molecules appeared different based on positive or negative words or phrases. Such as thank you, love/appreciation and love thyself produced a variety of beautiful geometric forms. On the other hand, phrases such as “you make me sick” or “you fool” produced crystals that were disconnected or chaotic.
Words matter. If they affect water and we are made up of 70% water how are we affected on a molecular/ cellular level by the words spoken to us and around us. Or the words we think about, and say to, ourselves.
The theologian in me recalls that in Genesis, God breathed into us at point of human creation. INSPIRED - breathed into -us with Gods spirit, and called by name, with love. We are good created for good things and goodness. But what happens as negativity affects our whole being on that molecular level? Corrupting and changing our spirits-souls-lives? What and who do we become when we are steeped in toxicity? Or rarely are moved by a positive voice.
At Christmas, Christians celebrated the Word of life, Jesus, who “moves into our neighborhood” so love would be personified. Jesus seeks to lift people up. To bring truth into each situation. To heal. To challenge for wholeness. He also bespeaks the possible power to affect change by the possession of positivity. Jesus didn't have the internet where words spread quickly - ad nauseum. We do. And the words we lodge there do not go away easily.
Actions also matter, because they back up words spoken. While it is not so black and white, we have a problem. We let words and images run amuck in our world and do some major damage to hearts and minds, young and old, male and female, all backgrounds and cultures. The question is do we love ourselves and others enough to change? To make a difference? To carefully consider what we set out into the universe? How will we chose to use our words. Words matter. All words matter.
I have been writing about words in this blog trying to consider their power and potential from inside and out. I invite you to challenge my ability to see both the cutting edge and the positive power of words by sending me words that interest you most , for me to play with and posit upon. Suggest them in the comments and you may see my thoughts on them sometime this year.
Also, feel free to share a word in the comments about how my musings inspire, or when they don't, call me on that too. Perhaps the words we share can build each other up, and create the world as we hope it will be.