That’s the message of a recent post by my friend Grace Ji-Sun Kim. She reflects on Bill Maher’s observations about Paula Deen. As one who makes his living using words, Maher reportedly said, “It’s just a word, it’s a wrong word, she’s wrong to use it, but do we always have to make people go away?”
Grace joins a number of people, that apparently include Maher’s guest at the time of his statement, who remind us of the power of words.
As children, we grow up with the schoolyard phrase: “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words may never hurt me.” Children say this because they know, too well, that words may hurt them.
If we look back in our lives, we will realize that there were certain words that people said to us that have stuck with us for a long time.
In both cases, my agreement arises from practical, personal experience as well as observation and reflection.
Words have power. Power to degrade. Power to inspire. Power to touch and move. Power to abase and wound.
Totalitarian regimes have long recognized the power of words. When the military junta seized power Chile, they arrested, tortured, and killed Victor Jara. His crime? He used the words of his songs to support the government of Salvador Allende.
As Grace writes:
Words influence our thoughts and our ideas. Words shape how we see the world, by causing us to stress certain things and ignore other things.
Once we realize the power of words, we recognize that we can actually start to embrace one another through words.
Our words should be used for moving us and making us into meaningful people who seek to encourage and motivate others. Once we realize the importance and power of our words, we can become more careful with what we say because we know that what we say matters.
Thanks Grace for your reminder about the power of words. May I choose mine carefully, lovingly, and justly.
See you along the Trail.
P.S. In the pile of books I hope to read soon is The Grace of Sophia by Grace Ji-Sun Kim. I look forward to the read.