Whatever words we utter should be chosen with care for people will hear them and be influenced by them for good or ill ~ Buddha
I have always had a love affair with words. An affinity for weaving words together to form a rich, vibrant narrative that evokes a clear visual and emotional response. I’ve always had a diary, a journal, a notepad to jot down my thoughts, my ideas, and work out my tangled web of notions swirling around asking for acknowledgement and contemplation. That’s been my rock, my saviour, my easiest and clearest form of communication, the written word.
Public speaking has traditionally been a challenge. Despite my “chatterbox” nickname as a child, I was always tongue tied when needing to speak, out loud, something important, something meaningful, some essence of my truth. I would sweat, go bright read with my heart ready to leap out of my chest, and hands cold and shaking. I would vibrate.
I have also used my words, not only ineffectively, but against myself and others. Engaging in gossip, little “white” lies, and sitting in judgement. Bringing myself down and those around me. I was unaware of the power of words, or at least, that was what I told myself. In reality, looking back at my younger, less enlightened (at least I hope so) self, is that I had experienced the pain of words used to hurt, and in revenge mode, used my words against others. This is a common occurrence on the playground. “Kids are so mean”, “it’s all part of growing up”, “it’ll just make you stronger”. And my personal favourite, only because it’s bullshit, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me!”
But what if we believed those words?
Unfortunately, wielding words as a weapon doesn’t end when we grow up and leave the playgrounds behind us. In fact, I believe we enter a more daunting and damaging playground, a battlefield, an arena, where words are still used as a weapon, but as adults those weapons are used to poison, they are calculated and intentional. As adults, we have a far greater understanding of their power, and we have a crystal clear knowledge of what we are trying to do. We use them with intention.
One of the most powerful and game-changing books I’ve read has been the Four Agreements. Ruiz speaks of the First Agreement to be impeccable with your word. Words are a force that are used to express, communicate, think and create our worlds, our reality. He speaks of words as a double-edged sword, wielding the power to spread love and beauty, or destroy everything around us. Intent is manifested through our words.
I have also been on the receiving end of words spat in hate, rage, to my face; targeted to harm, to injure and to deeply wound. And also more subversively, by gossip spoken behind my back to a third party. Words spoken to undermine, to belittle, and in some ways, cause greater pain through a lack of courage to speak her judgements directly to me. Despite being a firm believer that our perception of the words spoken to us, or behind our backs, is influenced by our lived experience, our history, and that determining the intent of another is, at best, problematic, I also believe there are some words that leave little room for interpretation.
Unfortunately, this has been, in the two more recent occasions, at the hands of those I held in high regard, who claimed to love me and support me. But isn’t that the way it always is? Don’t we hurt the ones we love? In reality, no one else has the same power to injure than those closest to us, those that we listen to, those whose opinions we value, those who we believe. Other than ourselves. As a retired, injured runner, I have not been impeccable with my words and have used them against myself. No longer with my runner’s body, I have told myself that I am fat, no longer lean enough, too much flab and so on. And I started to believe my words.
When we believe words spoken with intent to poison or injure, spoken in judgement, or even against ourselves with negative self-talk, we internalize, we agree with them and those judgements become part of our belief system. To be impeccable with myself, I am going to start appreciating my body, such as my new bum, since I’m no longer running my ass off, and my strong cyclist legs, and my ability to drink a beer and not worry about it. And I’m going to start being impeccable with others, not seeking revenge, refraining from gossip, letting those who choose that path, choose it for themselves alone. Also, attempting to always being truthful. Even if it’s uncomfortable. Finally, I want to be honest and mindful of the intention behind my words, or my message, after all, it is true what they say, if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all!
Be Impeccable With Your Word. Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love ~ Don Miguel Ruiz