power in words and pictures

Words - the Power in their Presence and in their Absence

Words – the Power in their Presence and in their Absence

“In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

~Martin Luther King, Jr.

The girls in the group were speaking in whispers about one of their friends. “I heard she…” And so began the denigration of one person’s character and reputation. Her best friend was standing in the group, and though she knew it wasn’t true, she said nothing. It was just too scary to stand up to the popular girl. While the words of the mean girls were troubling, it was the silence of the one that would prove costly. It is the silence of which Dr. King spoke, and it is louder than the most hurtful words spoken.

Let’s talk about words. Twitter is a social media platform that allows 140 characters in a statement called a Tweet. What if you were only allowed 140 words in your day? What if withholding meaningful words counted against your count for the day? How would your day change?

Words are funny things. Their presence can

  • lift us, “You look marvelous!”
  • make us laugh, “Knock, Knock…”
  • shame us, “You are so stupid!”
  • honor us, “Dearly beloved, we are gathered today to celebrate the life of…”

Their absence can

  • bring relief to a situation (think Silence is golden when you don’t need to be reprimanded)
  • leave us feeling hurt and uncared for (when we’ve worked hard on a project and no accolades were offered).

WORDS WE USE.

I often find that I stop myself before using a phrase to decide if it is a slang that would be considered hurtful. It’s a lot of work sometimes, but it matters to me that I am aware of how what I say will make someone else feel. I sometimes fail in this effort, and I will continue to work to be better. Maybe we can make some simple changes in our word count for the day, feel free to respond with your own experiences.

Those people. Who are they? They are probably people just like you and like me.  We hear those two words used in a typically negative sense about the people who live or think differently than we do. They are people we might not understand, but they are people. Those people — two words that really negate any good you’ve possibly offered in other sentences. Try to avoid that phrase.

You’re too ____. What? He’s too emotional for your comfort level? She’s too uptight? I’m too serious? She’s too unprofessional? When we try to define another person, we limit them, we devalue them, and we alienate them.

They (or that) are so retarded. Mental retardation is a real thing. People who are dealing with being born with limitations you don’t have might not think it’s very nice for you to associate them with people who are acting a little out of control.

Thank you! The simple act of saying thank you is not to be underrated. Echart Tolle said, If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough. Maybe you can take just a moment today to say Thank You to someone who helped with a project, who held the door, or who served your food. Write a Thank You note for added meaning.

Words we don’t speak.

It is a beautiful thing to live in an age in which people care enough to think about the words they use and about the people who hear them, even though our efforts to not offend can be exhausting. But there is something worse — remaining silent when we should speak.

The worker who is being harassed while others turn their heads, the child who needs anyone to speak up on his behalf when there is abuse, the person who witnesses a crime and decides to simply mind his own business, and the friend who hears a lie and says nothing — these are the times when silence is not golden.

Why do people remain silent? Fear. Fear of being rejected by the people they speak against, fear of retaliation by the person committing the offense, fear of being punished for speaking up. Fear drives so much in our lives and in our society. Courage is what is needed to help the child, the coworker, the victim of theft or of slander. Courage is lacking in our society too often.

Words are great vehicles for communicating joy, anger, sorrow, or new ideas. If we are given a finite number of words to use today, we must choose carefully when to speak and when to remain silent. If our count increases or decreases based on not only what we say but what we withhold, how will our count be at the end of the day, at the end of our lives? I have had many hurtful words spoken about me by my enemies, and I know you have, too, but none of those words have been as deafening as the silence of friends. I’m working hard to be a better kind of friend.

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