Musings: The Power Of Words
I’m back on one of my favorite subjects again – words. In recent postings,Poetry- Words Painting Pictures, Musings- Sharing Our Gifts And Talents, and Reading Or Writing- It’s Still About Words, I have spoken at length about my fascination with the written word. Seeing the way that words are strung together by different authors to achieve different descriptive effects gives me great pleasure and reaches into my soul.
However, words, ether written or spoken, can be used for negative purposes too. Just a few days ago I was witness to a small scene between two people that reminded me of this. There is no need to go into the details of the situation. Suffice it to say that one of the parties involved was extremely hurt at the end of the exchange and it gave me pause to think, once again, about the power of words.
Words can be used to build up or tear down a person’s sense of self worth, their self esteem. Words can comfort or they can cause pain. They can be a generous gift or a piercing sword. Words can cause laughter or tears, they can bring enlightenment or they can confuse. In the mouth of the speaker or the writer, words can be veritable weapons far more destructive than a bomb.
Sometimes the words themselves are not at fault. When delivering a message about the death of a dear one, or giving the truth about a harsh medical diagnosis, the messenger cannot change the words in order to not cause pain. Bad and difficult situations happen in life and we need to be informed of them. That is part of Life itself. But the way in which such information is given can make a huge difference to the receiver.
I am well aware that in the past I have cut people down, usually those closest and dearest to me, by thoughtless and scathing criticism. I have also been on the receiving end of such word lashings and I know how that feels. Over the years I have learned to curb my tongue, to take a deep breath and think twice before speaking.
How many times have I wanted to take back words spoken in haste. But the word, once spoken, cannot be erased. The most I can do is make attempts at reparation and ask forgiveness, as quickly as possible, and pray that the damage caused is minimal and that the injured party finds it within their heart to “forgive and forget”.
I try to remain on high alert when I know that I am going to be involved in discussions on sensitive issues. I always pray and ask God to keep me in a state of compassion. One of my favorite prayers is the Prayer of St. Francis. This is the prayer that I take into many difficult situations or before going into a retreat process. I would like to share that prayer with you now.
- Lord, make me a channel of thy peace;
- that where there is hatred, I may bring love;
- that where there is wrong, I may bring the spirit of forgiveness;
- that where there is discord, I may bring harmony;
- that where there is error, I may bring truth;
- that where there is doubt, I may bring faith;
- that where there is despair, I may bring hope;
- that where there are shadows, I may bring light;
- that where there is sadness, I may bring joy.
- Lord, grant that I may seek rather to comfort than to be comforted;
- to understand, than to be understood;
- to love, than to be loved.
- For it is by self-forgetting that one finds.
- It is by forgiving that one is forgiven.
- It is by dying that one awakens to eternal life.