Thursday, March 31, 2016

Taking Back the Words

"Crisp and Clear"
- a day in spring -

Last evening I watched a TV news report about Donald Trump’s latest outrageous rhetoric. Yesterday’s story began by showing a clip of what Trump initially said regarding his views on abortion, pronouncing that a woman who has an abortion should be “punished" for her misdeed. The news went on to report that, a few hours after making this statement, Mr. Trump took it all back and declared, “A woman who has an abortion is a victim and should never be punished under any circumstances.”

The whole incident was, for me, one more example of the power of words and how foolish it is to assume that we can ever take anything back when it comes to the words we speak.  Once a word is spoken it is irreversibly released into the social atmosphere. We might be able to apologize for the words we speak and perhaps ask forgiveness for the harm they have done but we can never take back the words.

A line from an Emily Dickinson poem comes to mind:

A word is dead
when it’s been said, some say.
I say it just begins to live that day.

There have been all sorts of ugly, nasty words that have been spoken over the course of this presidential election season as candidates hurl vicious insults against one another and spout vile rhetoric about immigrants and foreigners. Every day we hear words like “liar,” “stupid,” “ugly” or “lazy” uttered by people like Donald Trump. These words pollute the social atmosphere, each word is like a little seed planted in the public consciousness - they take root and grow into even more ugliness in an already toxic environment.

Words are very powerful. They can destroy life and they can also create new life.

Many times I have heard people say things like “his harsh words hit me hard, I felt like I was being punched in the gut.” I also think about words used by bullies that are often so powerful that they have pushed victims into committing suicide. Words have the power to destroy.

I have also seen many incidents in which when a single word of encouragement has changed a person’s life by giving them new hope; and when words like “I love you,” or “I forgive you” are spoken they always create new life.

We can never take back the words we speak and so it seems to me that we all should be very aware of the power of our words and very careful to use our words responsibly, always asking ourselves, “Will these words we plant grow into poisonous weeds or will they become beautiful flowers?”

I am reminded of one of my favorite proverbs from the Hebrew Scriptures:

Death and life are in the power of the tongue

Yet another proverb says:

He who guards his mouth preserves his life.

I hope and pray that over the next months as America moves toward the election of a new president we all might make an intentional effort to “guard” our mouths.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Paul. Right now there are so many words in my mind as they try and come to a decision, yet I hold back from placing any of them into the air, precisely because they cannot be taken back. I'm trusting that it is wisest for me to sit in silence until the words I need to speak become clear. Thank you xxxx

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