Note from Marilyn L. Davis: While this is a slight departure from many of the blogs on addiction and recovery, it is an excellent reminder of the power of words. When you share your recovery, know that what you say, how you say something, and when you say it might be the difference in healing and harming.
By: Rev. Dr. Kevin T. Coughlin Ph.D.
“. . . of all the weapons of destruction that man could invent, the most terrible-and the most powerful-was the word. Daggers and spears left traces of blood; arrows could be seen at a distance. Poisons were detected in the end and avoided. But the word managed to destroy without leaving clues.” ― Paulo Coelho
The Power and Problem with Words
Words are very powerful, even life changing or ending! What I thought I heard you say, isn’t what you meant to say, or what you actually did say, because your thoughts and words were not the same as my understanding, and my perception of your words is much different from yours!
How’s that for a mouthful!
Often what we say, or think we say, or mean to say, is not what other people hear. Especially with our children, we have to be very careful with our words as parents.
For example, your daughter comes home from school, and you say to her, “Beth, I love you, but why can’t you get good grades like your sister Alice does?” You think that you told Beth that you love her and that she needs to improve her grades.
What Beth heard you say was, “Beth, your sister Alice is better than you; you’re not good at anything!”
You Said, What?!
I hate texts from other people; they can be misinterpreted very easily. You can’t read the other person’s body language, tones, or inflections. Sometimes it’s very hard to understand what another person meant.
A key misspelled word can change the meaning of the text; a delay by the internet can cause the wrong text to arrive first. How about sending the wrong text to the wrong person! I received a text from a male friend of mine several months back; a text meant for his girlfriend. I can’t even repeat what it said. ‘Let’s just say I had several dozen good laughs once I realized it wasn’t for me.
The Promise of Words
The worst is when someone thinks that another person has made them a promise by the words that they said to them. The person now has high expectations of this perceived promise that is not even a reality. Because of a miscommunication a friendship could be lost, a family dissolved, trust and faith in each other ruined. All because of lack of clarity in the spoken word; perhaps because one party did not listen carefully to what the other party had to say.
Listening is the most powerful communication skill that we have as human beings.
Those who master this skill will have a major advantage over other people in business, relationships, and in life. When we listen, we pick up on other subtle nuances in what is said because:
- 55% of communication is body language
- 38% is tones and inflections
- 7% is the spoken word
Mastering the skills of reading body language, tones, and inflections will also give a person a huge advantage in life over other people. These skills are all priceless in the business world, relationships, recovery and in general._
Verbal Abuse Hurts, Too
We all know that physical abuse hurts; a punch, kick, a pull of the hair! Verbal abuse is just as painful, especially to children. At times, this happens, and the abuser is not even aware that they are abusive. Words can hurt people!
Think before you speak; there can be life ending consequences.
If you think about the first example of Beth and the message that she heard her parent say. She carried a lie in her spirit for years after that day. The lie was that she was faulty, no good, didn’t measure up, less than, a loser, not intelligent, and that her parents loved her sister more.
The only way for Beth to get better is for someone to tell her the truth and for Beth to let go of the old belief.
Beth needs a new directive; that she is a good person, that she has a purpose and a place, a right to be, and that she is a good person that her family loves.
Creating Your Own Words
The old directive must be taken away, and Beth must believe and buy into the new directive. This process most often involves self-discovery, prayer, and meditation. Learning new directives is a process of real inner healing that takes place and changes the belief of the person.
Even Individual Letters are Powerful
Even single letters can end you up behind bars! If you ever get pulled over for suspicion of drunk driving, you better know your ABCs!
If you slur or mix up a few letters, chances are, you’re going to spend the night in the drunk tank!
All because of a few letters; or maybe reality is because of a few too many drinks?
How about the power of the letters after some people’s names with their credentials. Some have long lists of degrees and certifications that tell you how far they went in school and other special degrees and certifications. These letters can have a great deal of meaning and power when it comes to respect, employment, careers, education, and business.
For Christians, the Word means the Bible and the Word of God. These words are considered by many as the greatest words of power! Some don’t believe in these words at all, and others base their very lives on them.
This decision is a personal choice based on culture, family, Worldview, and religion.
The World of Words
In today’s world, we have texting, Twitter, Facebook, fax machines, cell phones, all kinds of social media, video games, Xbox, PlayStation, DIRECTV, Cable, Laptops, Kindles, tablets, desktops, Smartphones, GoToMeeting, Vsee, YouTube, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, and Skype.
However, what is lost is the art of face to face communication.
Utilizing the spoken word, reading body language, tones, and inflections, understanding active listening, is slowly becoming a lost art form.
The more people lose the understanding of human communication; the more chaos in the world will come. Communication brings consistency and teamwork that benefits every human being on the planet.
Perhaps the greatest form of words is lyrics! Music can pierce our very souls; cut through like a knife, touch us at our very core. Have you ever listened to the lyrics and the melody of a song that just hit you square in the heart and soul?
Everyone loves some form of music. Even the deaf can feel the rhythm of the beat. Music touches all us on a core level. Music is the Universal language; so is love they say!
Then of course poetry, prose, and books touch our lives; they educate, culture, and refine us. The words can help us dream dreams, visit places without moving, know characters we’ve never met, and learn things without a professor standing in front of us. We can share the hearts, minds, and spirits of others and ourselves through words.
There is such wonderful power in words.
I hope that you heard what I intended to say in this article. The only way that I will ever know is if you share a few words with me in the comment section. I hope you enjoy the power of words and that you use them wisely for the good of humanity and the World.
©2015 Rev. Dr. Kevin T. Coughlin Ph.D.
(Source Wayne Independent Newspaper Nov. 10, 1998, Tammy Compton interview Rev. Kevin T. Coughlin on Body Language, Tones, and Inflections)