A couple days ago, I decided to step away from social media for a bit, because between all the usual political negativity and propaganda being flung about, and the many veiled hate-based messages disguised as either support for Duck Dynasty stars or the A&E network, I’d had just about enough. And don’t get me started on the vast myriad of postings regarding activities or events being done allegedly in the name of celebrating the birth of Christ, of which only a minuscule fraction would actually come close to qualifying. Then, when I did make the mistake of pulling my head from the metaphorical sand, and went online for only a moment, I was greeted with the newest hot-button issue: Justine Sacco. It was at this point I decided to use some of my sabbatical from social media to write a bit about the power of words.
For as long as there has been language, there have been those with the ability to use words to move, to stir emotion, to incite change. Look at religious texts, regardless of the religion, and you’ll find countless examples of soul-touching text. The Holy Bible, just as a for instance, contains many examples of great speech: King Solomon’s words of love, Apostle Paul’s words to the Corinthians, Job’s words from the heart, and of course the words of Christ which are often quoted still to this day.
Take the written works of the masters: Shakespeare, Frost, Austen, Faulkner, et al. Words put to paper long, long ago, yet with a timeless ability to affect the reader.
Think of the world of music, and the many lyrical geniuses: from Ira Gershwin and Alan Lerner, to Joni Mitchell and John Lennon. Words, when accompanied by song, can be especially powerful.
I still remember getting chills hearing Maya Angelou recite her poem during an inauguration in 1993. Many are still hoping for a time when people will “Ask not what your country can do for you…,” as implored by a fresh-faced president. And I think most will never tire of hearing a young man named King tell us about his dream while standing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
Words are powerful, my friends. Use them with great care. Use them with purpose.
“But what about the First Amendment? I can say whatever I damn well please!”
Yes, it is true that here in the United States we are guaranteed the right to free speech. This gives us the right to speak our mind without fear of being arrested. It does not, however, magically enable us to say whatever we desire without consequences. Whether it be the loss of a job, the loss of an election, or the loss of the respect of others, the laws of cause/effect, and action/reaction are still very much in play.
Words carry immense power, and need to be treated as such.
So think before you speak. Consider the potential of what you want to say, where you are saying it, and to whom you are speaking. Remember that the internet is forever, and what you write, what you post, is never “fully” deleted. And nowadays, with the many different types of recording devices being used by nearly everyone, there is a good chance what you vocalize is being recorded by someone. So before you say it, before you write it – think it, make sure you can live with it, and *please* remember that just because you can say something, does not necessarily mean you should say it.
Be smart. Use your head. To quote one of the speakers I referenced earlier: “Do unto others, as you would have done to you.” I don’t care what your religion, those are powerful words, indeed.