…the words in my wallet…
It was December of 2013 when I made an observation regarding the casual use of language and how certain words were over used, stretched to the point of meaningless, and yet still managed to creep inside of us and infect us with their real meaning. I challenged myself to stop being lazy with words and start speaking meaningfully again.
I’m a writer and a poet and somehow I had lost sight of the fact that words are powerful. When used properly they have punch, they express emotion and thought and ideas and they come to represent who we are as people. So I told myself to stop being lazy with them.
I focused on the word “hate” for the most part, but really wanted to address the vagueness that had crept into my vocabulary. It’s so easy to throw around a word like “hate” when in fact, what we are attempting to express isn’t anything near hatred. When someone states that something distasteful has happened, like “I swallowed a bug” or “They were out of ice cream,” it is very easy to respond “Oh, I HATE that.” When you don’t care for the taste of something, it’s acceptable to say “I hate peas.” From there it becomes easy to generalize nearly anything and apply the word hate to it. “I hate Republicans” or “I hate Democrats” or “I hate gay people” or “I hate Muslims”….etc, ad infinitum.
I won’t say that I’ve eliminated the word completely from casual usage, but I have worked hard at becoming better about stopping myself before I’ve said it and changing my response from some casual bunch of words that can be dismissed as largely meaningless sounds aimed at expressing sympathy or empathy into actual words of sympathy and empathy.
It’s like throwing flattened pennies into the tip jar, they make a nice noise, but they’re worthless. How much more satisfying is it to pull some real words out of my wallet and put them to use?
But, a funny thing has happened, as I’ve embarked on this journey to improve my communication. Not only do I use the word less and less, and only when I truly mean it…I’ve found that I don’t generally mean it. Not only has the way I speak changed, but something inside me did at the same time.
A famous Jedi once said that “fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate and hate leads to the dark side.” Strange, but I’ve found that expunging the frivolous use of the word hate has lead me to be less angry, to have less fear. I don’t actually hate anything or anyone. I find myself offering comfort or assistance. I find myself bonding with people I used to only casually interact with.
I also find that I’m more careful about what I say and how I chose to say it. The words in my wallet have power.
I’m living proof. They’ve changed me.