I had the stomach flu this past week, and at one point, I was almost delirious from throwing up. My kids were swarming the bathroom with concern, and I yelled. I yelled at my three little ones, through my nausea, "Please BE quiet, I'm throwing up!" Fast forward to this morning ... my 4 year old had gotten the same bug, and was throwing up. My husband yelled something to me from the other room, and my son weakly said "dad, shhh - loud noises make us throw up." It took some investigating, but I finally realised that my words from 3 days before hadn't been taken as I'd ment them.
Words are funny creatures, with minds of their own. Think of the ways you can say just one word. "Hello." Just one single, lone word. Yet, it has so much power. It can be a stranger's shy greeting - with the stregnth to "break the ice". It can be a question when answering a call - questioning an unknown listener on the other end. It can be demeaning or challenging, when the last two letters are drug out and emphasized - helllloww?!. No wonder the English language can be so confusing when attempting to learn it as a foriegn language.
I saw a "PrimeTime" episode tonight, about how people respond in certain situations. The part that commanded my attention was a taxi-cab set-up, with different actors protraying a prejudiced cab-driver. There were hidden cameras listening in as the actor dropped a racial comment, and captured the response of the customers. I was shocked to hear some of the sly comments that snuck out of people's mouths, but I was also contemplating the lack of response by some people. It was summed up at the end by n individual that simply shocked me, but also filled me with a knowing sadness. He commented that "It's not racism, it's just jokes."
Along the same lines, we are faced with words every day. Words that may not seem like much, but have the power and potential to cut very deep. Words that we deem as just sillyness or non-affecting, or playful have the potential to end up hurting and paining others. Whether we mean them or not, they can't be erased once they are said. Whether we say them ourselves, or stand by and let the words be said. And, like many other things, a little word can go a long way, even if it wasn't ment to. I vaguely remember memorising a poem when I was about three or four. It started out "A word is like a tiny seed. Drop it, plant it, no matter what you do, it can always grow bigger than you." I have no idea the rest of the poem, but the message is clear. Whether you mean it or not, the word still has all the power to exhaust any possible meaning it chooses, you don't get to choose where it goes once it has left your mouth, or in some instances, your fingers. How sad that sometimes, our thoughtlessness in words can cause anguish to others; even worse is when the anguish was intended by the speaker - directly or indirectly. And perhaps the saddest of all is when we do nothing to control the words around us, for this is guilt by association.
Words are powerful, gaurd them carefully.