Courtesy of Deviant Art
Somewhere between nowhere and goodbye lie words. Words, and the way we use them in our everyday language and lifetime. In the written word, I have used them professionally to create correspondence, I have used them personally in journals to leave a history of my life and growth, I have used them creatively to write essays, short stories, and poems. Vocally, I have used words with inflections to project different meanings - No, thank you, I don't want that vs. No, thank you, I do not want that! I have used them gently to soothe fears and dry tears, I have used them with authority to command control, I have used them to sway, persuade and influence, I have used them to carry truth, kindness, and compassion, I have used them to elate and to lift spirits, and I have used them to induce laughter. And, unfortunately, I have also used them internally to create feelings of helplessness, fear and powerlessness that only we can accomplish with such success and as we all at times have done. But the one area where I part with words is to use them as a tool to carry cruelty.
If words can destroy and heal, if words carry such energy and power, then why not use them wisely? What if we dispensed with the useless chatter that travels the road to nowhere? What if we got into the habit of thinking before speaking and seeing if whether we are speaking in truth or in falsity, thereby avoiding sticky situations in which we might find ourselves in the future? What if we used words only to raise our spirits and use them to heal and not harm, to praise and not criticize, to calm and not incite? What if? Wouldn't this be a more compassionate and loving world?
When I was young (and immature), I'd use words freely without thinking to prove myself, my worth, my intelligence. I used them to show I had a voice, an opinion, a backbone. Simply, it was all about ego, where my Self felt the need to be right or where I compared myself to others. We all have gone through that stage.
But as one gets older, one begins to see the value and power words carry and thus begins to use them more carefully. This comes by way of maturity and experience where finally the ego is released. We change our selfish I to a more inclusive we and begin to work more with others instead of always serving the Self. And one begins to recognize the lack of importance in the things we once thought so critical and spewed so vehemently about and find, that in fact, most of it was inconsequential.
There is a great deal to be said for the maturity one gains throughout life. My mother comes to mind. When I was a young and still finding my way, my mother would admonish me in gentle ways. She was my first Buddha teacher and only later in life did I realize that. Because she had me late in life, I was blessed with her sageness and maturity. And I grew up in the midst of much storytelling to make a point, of gentle reprimandings, of teachings of kindness and right. And some of the things I learned from listening to her and from witnessing how she conducted herself in life, were that at times refraining from "speaking your mind" would be the better part of discretion and promote a more harmonious environment; that the truth always reveals itself in the end so there is no need for you to be the bearer of such news; that sometimes yielding to another and letting them have the last word did not mean you were weak and submissive, instead it meant you had finally matured and realized that certain discussions or arguments would never lead to a meeting of the minds. Living with my mother was like being home schooled where I was in class all the time learning to navigate the ways of an intricate life.
And so, the way we speak to each other, the things we say, the words we use and, sometimes more importantly, the words we do not use, in the end define us. The image we project is defined, of course, by our conduct, our clothes and our actions. But it is most primarily defined by the language we use. Let the exchange of words be not filled with ill-will, envy or anger, instead let that exchange be productive and transformational for the betterment of ourselves and others. Because somewhere between nowhere and goodbye, lie the power of words.
© 2008 Rebecca Bush