Here’s a beautiful and profound piece by Henri Nouwen, from Bread of the Journey, as an introductory on today’s topic: using creative versus destructive words
Words, words, words. Our society is full of words: on billboards, on television screens, in newspapers and books. Words whispered, shouted, and sung. Words that move, dance, and change in size and color. Words that say, “Taste me, smell me, eat me, drink me, sleep with me,” but most of all, “buy me.” With so many words around us, we quickly say: “Well, they’re just words.” Thus, words have lost much of their power.
Still, the word has the power to create. When God speaks, God creates. When God says, “Let there be light” (Genesis 1:3), light is. God speaks light. For God, speaking and creating are the same. It is this creative power of the word we need to reclaim. What we say is very important. When we say, “I love you,” and say it from the heart, we can give another person new life, new hope, new courage. When we say, “I hate you,” we can destroy another person. Let’s watch our words.
What influence do you have with your words?
Is it creative, life-giving, encouraging, hopeful? Do you give praise, give positive feedback, say loving words, say kind words, do you create encouraging pieces of writing like blogging, noveling or poetry?
Or are you mostly lured by the temptation to be destructive with your words; do you gossip, slander, say denigrating words, say hateful words, use sarcasm or cynicism, or do you disclose other people’s secrets or give a lot of negative feedback?
Here’s a proposition to cut back on your negative words and increase your positive verbal expressions in 4 weeks:
- Week 1: Just tally marks every day on a notepad, noting the amount of times you used your words destructively and how many times creatively and kindly. This is just to make you aware of what you’re doing before changing your behavior.
- Week 2: This week’s challenge will be to daily replace two bad words with two positive encouraging or creative words. Keep notes everyday and reward yourself with kind words or by doing something you love. Positive feedback for yourself is important!
- Week 3: This week focus solely on eliminating gossiping, because that is one of the most destructive uses of words. You damage other people as well as your own soul. Here’s the solution: put a rubber band on your right wrist. Every time you gossip or gossip along with somebody at home or at work you put the rubber band to your left wrist and after a positive remark you can place it back again, the goal being to keep it always on the right wrist. Quitting gossiping can be quite daunting, especially when you tell people you don’t want to talk about anybody else behind their back anymore and you could be perceived as a killjoy or a spoilsport. Just think about it: people will respect you more for your integrity in the end and you will have a clear conscience.
- Week 4: In this last week I want you to play with words and experience their creative usage. Write, blog, write a poem, write a tiny letter to your spouse and put it — with a hint of perfume — on his pillow, journal, write down beautiful verses of Scripture or poems with a nifty pen with lavender ink, play, enjoy, be spontaneous, be creative!
Now you are further along the path of kindness and love than most people around you probably will be .
And if you fall back again: say kind words to yourself and try again 😉