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“Words were medicine; they were magic and invisible. They came from nothing into sound and meaning. They were beyond price; they could neither be bought nor sold” (Navarre Scott Momaday).
LIFE TEACHES TWO THINGS TO THOSE WHO ARE WILLING TO LEARN: WORDS ARE POWERFUL AND WORDS ARE VALUABLE. The value of words, in fact, comes from their power — that is, their power to do good. As symbols which convey thoughts from one mind to another, words are capable of healing and helping. They have the power to impart hope. They can instruct and encourage with a potency that’s often amazing.
But words can also hurt, as we all know. Out-of-control words can do more damage in ten minutes than can be repaired in ten years, and so wisdom counsels us to be careful in our use of language.
Yet in our carefulness, let’s not be so careful that we clam up. As Judith Viorst said, “Brevity may be the soul of wit, but not when someone’s saying ‘I love you.’ ” On the occasion when someone needs to be uplifted by words we’ve got the power to say, that’s not the time to be sparing or stingy. Instead, it’s the time to be lavish. We need not have any qualms about being extravagant when it comes to encouragement. The more words we can speak to that end, the better.
The main test our words need to meet is the test of truth. Not every truth needs to be spoken, obviously, but when we do speak, our words should never be anything less than truthful. Even when our intent is to inspire hope in someone else’s heart, we dare not twist the facts to do so. Words that fail the truth test are always wasted words.
Images, including facial expressions and body language, convey a certain amount of information about us to others, and our actions are even more revealing. But in the end, it is words by which a human being reveals himself or herself to another. Since that’s true, the words we speak, or don’t speak, are quite important. By speaking, we open the doors of our hearts to others; by not speaking, we leave those doors closed. By speaking, we bestow grace and give ourselves away. Let us, then, have the courage to do that. Not hiding from the light of language, may we employ words wisely and well. It is, after all, no small thing to say to another, “I am willing to be known by you.”
“Speak that I may see thee” (Ben Johnson).