This week a word was used to describe me that made me do a double take. It wasn’t an insulting or offensive word, it wasn’t said in a nasty tone, but I was mildly affronted.
I thought I had made a genuine impression, had a reasonably deep connection with this individual when they applied this word to me. We had laughed, shared stories, made plans, shared hurts, we had gone beyond pleasantries when the word made an appearance.
It’s a word that I’d connect with vanilla ice cream, ready salted crisps, warm water, salted popcorn, plain rice and mash potatoes…in short the type of thing you have if nothing else is available.
It’s the type of word you’d apply when viewing someone’s house, sampling a desert dry cake or admiring a child’s painting and you can’t think of anything positive to say.
Almost like a ‘make do’, bland, tasteless, meaningless, left over type of word: a word to be found in the junkyard of words.
Which made me think about the power of words and the way they can affect us. With Valentines Day fast approaching the word LOVE immediately sprang to mind. I can remember the first time my husband uttered those three little words, “I LOVE YOU”, and how my heart almost escaped from my chest and a million butterflies took flight in my belly.
How heart breaking it would have been for him if instead of replying “I LOVE YOU” right back, I mumbled “I DON’T LOVE YOU”. The appearance of one word, DON’T, changing the meaning of the whole sentence.
Another word that carries so much power is the word THEREFORE. I have recently preached on the Book of Philemon and the Apostle Paul’s use of the word THEREFORE. The way THEREFORE connects a strong affirmation of Philemon’s personal characteristics followed by the behaviour he expects from him, massive meaning contained within one little nine-letter word.
Then comes the famous BUT. You’re doing really well BUT, I think you’re great BUT, I would like to help BUT. How many of us have had great conversations immediately slayed by the killer BUT?
Another two words that can propel or postpone us are PASS and FAIL. This week I passed my driving test and am ecstatic, over the moon, elated, relieved and deliriously happy. I almost hugged the examiner but held back and replaced physical touch with verbal gushing’s. She was embarrassed and horrified…the power of words!!!
YES and NO elicit similar reactions to PASS and FAIL and can be just as positive or destructive.
The spoken word has the power to tear us down, stop us in our tracks and leave scars that last a lifetime. On the contrary they can also build us up and inspire us to achieve greater feats than we ever dared to dream.
Conversely the most powerful words can be rendered powerless if the eyes, body language and tone of voice don’t match what’s being said. Ever had someone say sorry to you grudgingly, with glaring eyes, hunched shoulders and a clipped tone?
I read this anonymous quote an thought it incredibly apt “Words start wars and end them, create love and choke it, bring us to laughter and joy and tears. Words cause men and women to willingly risk their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor. Our world, as we know it, revolves on the power of words.”
Words are powerful and have a longer lasting effect than most give them credit for. They stick in our head, and often unwittingly, come pouring out of our mouths.
They are living entities and evolve with each new generation and different location.
If you’re wondering what the word used to describe me was, it was…NICE! Bland, flavourless, boring…zzzzzzz!
But, if I put aside my insipid connotations of this word and focus on the persons tone, body language and the expression in their eyes it really was quite a compliment…thanks!!