Words are so much more than mere symbols, and they’re so much stronger than the simplicity of speaking suggests. Words are sacred vessels that carry the soul of whomever speaks them; they’re precious ewers that hold energy, feeling, and intent.
A collection of words is like a pantheon of gods – each one ethereal, immortal, effectual, and powerful. A single word, once spoken, lives on forever. A single word holds the power to harm and to heal, to create and destroy. A single word has the capacity to translate thought into form, to open entire dimensions of possibility, or to abruptly close the door.
Words are like magic – an ancient and particularly powerful sort – but what kinds of spells are we collectively casting?
It’s clear when you look at billboards, magazines, and computer screens that we’ve traded clarity for speed, and we’ve sacrificed our love of meaning for an infatuation with memes.
We’ve glorified the quick-witted at the expense of the well thought out, and we’ve dismissed subjectivity, complexity, and creativity in these bland, biased, and barren one-liners that jump out at us from our social media feeds.
People are speaking more but saying less, and everyone is projecting while few are reflecting. There’s a surplus of opinions masking a lack of knowledge; and instead of authenticity, we celebrate a cheap imitation that used to be called flippancy.
While we revel in the fast, memorable, and loud, we’re losing sight of the things that can only be explored through real connections, with in-depth and articulate conversations. As we rush forward with ever increasing speed, we’re leaving no time for our true thinkers and shunning our philosophers – leaving people with no choice but to appeal to the lowest common denominator.
In a rich ironic twist, our current reality is a testament to the true power of words. For years, people have been saying that actions speak louder than words, and so for years we’ve given them less consideration, less value, and less care. Now what was once just a metaphor is quickly becoming a veritable claim – because what we declare we will create, especially on a collective level.
Words do have power; and that power is backfiring on those who would deny it.
Words do matter. How we use them does matter. Denying, dismissing, and downplaying that power won’t make it go away. It just leads us to wield it ever more haphazardly.
People end up getting hurt when we don’t take responsibility for how we say things.
People end up becoming more divided when we don’t look for diplomatic, compassionate, and thoughtful ways of exploring ideas.
People end up losing truth when we over-simplify things, when unacknowledged subjectivities and complexities become evidence against known truths rather than reason to more deeply explore them.
Any tool can incidentally become a weapon when it’s used carelessly – and that’s what’s happening in the world today. Where clear, honest, and intentional language once helped us unite, understand, empathize, and multiply our knowledge, now oversimplified, biased, rhetorical, and clumsy language is serving to divide us and limit us, and placing knowledge back in a locked drawer that’s only accessible to a select few much like it was thousands of years ago.
It’s time to put a stop to this regression before it’s too late.
In a world where people swing words around like sharp swords, unconcerned with whom they may cut; it’s time to slow down a little and choose instead to be gentle.
In a world drenched in sarcasm, simplification, and shallowness; it’s time to take it upon ourselves to look for the deeper truth.
In a world where people use words to curse, cut, and criticize; it’s time to rise up and speak clearly, honestly, and passionately about what’s important, what’s real, and what’s right.
It’s time as a society to get back to the basics. To start speaking truth rather than spreading lies. To start acknowledging subjectivity, to take time enough to explore complexity, to slow down and respect our ideas enough to speak clearly, and to give others the time and space to do the same.
Most importantly, it’s time to stop pretending that there’s some conflict between being honest and being kind.
You can express yourself freely and openly while still being clear, kind, and compassionate; and you can be authentic without voicing every opinion that crosses your mind.
There is more to integrity than honesty alone. You can be honest and be wrong; and you can be honest and be cruel. Honesty does not imply righteousness, unless it’s the honesty not of the mind but of the soul – that part of you that understands the big picture, that’s never rushed, and that knows whatever you say to another you’re also saying to yourself.
We have real power, each and every one of us – and a great part of that power is manifested through the ways and reasons we speak. If we want to heal this world, we have to start by healing our relationship with words.
It’s time for those of us with eyes to see and ears to hear to rise up.
It’s time for every soulful artist, every awakened woman, and every conscious man to rise up and show this world how it’s done.
It’s time to rise up and let our voices be like blooming flowers and our songs be like white light, to let our thoughts be like a spring breeze and our writing as a lightning strike.
It’s time to rise up and show this world just how powerful, playful, freeing, and wildly beautiful it can really be to choose our words mindfully, compassionately, and intentionally.
©2017 Cristen Rodgers
Image: Ni Haifeng, The Domesticated, 2003
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