Word Power

Words“Words have a longer life than deeds.” Pindar

In the movie “A River Runs Through It”, a young boy was being tutored by his father in the art of writing. Set to write an essay, each time the boy returned it to his father for review, his father instructed him to write it again “half as long”. Through this exercise the boy learned to pare down, to edit…to make every word count…and eventually he submitted a version that was worthy of his father’s approval.

The art and power of words has always fascinated me. Sometimes its the turn of a phrase that catches my attention, or the lilt of a poem…the way that a bare minimum of words can evoke so much emotion. There are so many nuances in our language that most of us have learned and adapted to in society. Take, for example, all the different words we use to describe how something smells and how you might feel if you were cooking and someone came in and said “What is that smell?” or if they said “What is that aroma?” There’s a big difference, and also a big difference in how the word choices of others can make us feel.

Words have the power to both inflict pain and to take it away and it seems that more often than not, we are not as careful with our words as we should be. We forget the power that we wield with them, and how our words can echo in the future without us even realizing it. How many of us can still recall…and be hurt by…names that we were called as children, especially if the barbs came from those we loved and trusted? How many of us can hear in our minds the hurtful words of someone we loved who no longer wants to be a part of our life? The tapes replay in our heads with less frequency as time goes on, but they are still there. I was once the unfortunate witness to an interaction between a grandmother and her granddaughter, who was hurt in a bicycling accident. The girl sought comfort, but the grandmother’s comment was, “I don’t feel sorry for you…you chose to go.” Her granddaughter was clearly devastated and I would imagine is still hurt by it to this day. What could have been different if her grandmother had instead said something like “I’m so sorry you got hurt”?

We don’t need a great many words to hurt each other…a few choice ones will do.

I hate you.
I never loved you.
Act like a man.
You’re a loser.
You’re such a brat.
Suck it up.

We are fortunate, however, because choosing other words can make all the difference in someone’s life.

I love you.
I forgive you.
I’m here for you.
You can do it.
I believe in you.
You will get through this.
You’re my friend.
Hang in there.
I’m proud of you.

Today when you are talking to your child, your parent, your friend, a co-worker, or even a stranger you pass, think about what you can say to make that person’s day a little better. It only takes a few choice words to make all the difference.

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