08/06/20 Words Are Hard

It’s been a while since I’ve written. If you read my last post, you will understand part of it. Like most everyone I’ve talked with lately, I’m struggling. So, I’ve been at a loss for words.

What does that expression mean, anyway? How can one be at a loss for words? According to Google, there are more than a million words in the English language, about 170,000 words in current use, and most people use around 20,000-30,000 words in their personal communication. With anywhere from 20,000 – 1,000,000 words available to me, how can I be at a loss for words? Surely I can utter something.

I have wanted to say SO MUCH, and yet, I’m weary of words. I’ve been bombarded with them over these last five months of pandemic living, from news stories to press conferences to protests to zoom meetings to school opening debates to mask rage to online worship to social media. The words are everywhere. We’ve all heard the old adage, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” Uhm. I beg to differ. Words hurt. Words sting. Words divide. Words inflict painful wounds. Words wield power to destroy. And the words I’ve been hearing and reading turn my stomach. But, words can be life-giving, bring comfort, right wrongs, develop relationships, inform.

In short, words matter. How are you using them?

What was the last thing you said to someone you know well? What was the last thing you said to someone you don’t know at all? Was it in person? Was it online? What if the last thing you said to someone was hurtful or ugly, and that was the last comment you ever uttered? No take backs. No do overs. That’s it. Would you have remorse? Regret? Is that how you’d want to be remembered? Would you say it differently or not say anything at all if you knew it was the last thing you would ever get to utter?

As a substitute teacher for years, I often would see posters in teachers’ classrooms that said “THINK before you speak.” And the letters of the word “think” stood for what you should consider before you opened your mouth. Is what you are about to say True, Helpful, Inspiring/Important, Necessary, Kind? (I’ve seen the “I” both ways. I like both.)

Words matter.

Lately, there’s a societal trend to classify certain women as “Karens.” A “Karen” is not a desired classification. A “Karen” is not a kind person, or, at least, is a self-righteous person. A “Karen” is often seen as hypocritical. A “Karen” is self-centered. A “Karen” demands her way, usually by making a scene. A “Karen” is never wrong and never apologizes. I have several friends named Karen, and they are lovely, warm, kind, generous, smart, articulate, talented women.

I get that there are people in this world who are self-righteous, hypocritical, self-centered, demanding, unapologetic people. But it seems to me that resorting to name-calling doesn’t raise the game at all. Name-calling just keeps everyone in the mire. When I grew up, children who called other children names were reprimanded and reminded that name-calling is unkind and unnecessary. Now, our elected officials call each other names. Insults are hurled across the web-o-sphere against people we don’t know personally. And people who are offensive to us are name-called “Karen.” Truly, it’s shameful. Can’t we just stop? Be better than this.

Words matter.

When our teenage daughter is trying to tell us something and stumbles for the words she’s seeking to express her point, she pauses and says, “words are hard.” Yes, yes they are. And we should use them with great caution. T.H.I.N.K.

I wish you grace and peace as you journey.

Yours in Christ.