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July 01, 2008

Word Power

I received a 'Round Robin" type e-mail earlier today which set me thinking. The message is essentially a reminder from the Bible that the tongue is a vicious weapon - perhaps one of the most dangerous in the world. The message set me thinking as I drove north to Blackpool and the conference I am attending this week.

Looking back at history, one is very quickly aware of the number of occasions when words spoken in anger, or simply in ignorance, have launched wars and misery for millions. Reading the book "The Rubicon" one is very soon aware of just how little politicians have changed since Roman times, and of just how cleverly they can use words to destroy one man (or a group) and raise another. Nothing much changes. Unfortunately it isn't just the politicians that use words to hurt or damage - we all do at some time or another, and yes, I do hold my own hand up on that one.

Part of the trouble is that what we say, and what others hear may be two different things. A lot depends on how we say something, how we present the statement in 'body language' and in the inflections in our voice. Sometimes we respond with a flippant comment or remark when the other half of the conversation is hoping for something more affirmative or sensitive. Perhaps we even meant it to be heard that way - but the way we said it is misheard and distress may be the result. This is often the case in disputes within families - one person is having a bad day and another wants approval or encouragement. Words are misheard or misinterpreted and the result can be a family rift that lasts a lifetime.

We all need to be careful what we say and how we say it - most particularly when we talk about others to anyone else, including themselves. It is all to easy to say something hurtful without intending to do so - and once said, the words cannot be unsaid.

As Omar Kayyiam, the 11th Century Persian poet wrote - "The moving finger writes, and having writ, moves on; And not all the tear, nor all the sorrows, can change one line of it."

The same applies to everything we say - it cannot be unsaid and the words have the power to destroy someone's confidence, to inflict wounds that, for all they cannot be seen, still cut deep. Words have power and we need to remember that we have two eyes, two ears, but thankfully only one tongue. One should never speak in anger for that is when we are most likely to say exactly the thing that will do the most damage. Once said, an apparently small comment has the power to cause decades of hurt.

Posted by The Gray Monk at July 1, 2008 04:00 PM

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