Words, the Water in Which we Swim

I’m on a writing leave and am spending a lot of time reading, writing, and editing words. This process was gotten me thinking about language, and more specifically our use of words. This little reflection was written a few weeks ago. I share it with you as an encouragement not only to think about words, but especially thinking about the role words have in our relationships and in our life of faith.

Words, the water in which we swim

We swim in a world filled with words.

There are virtual words – Email, Facebook, and Twitter are ecosystems filled with words. Here words tell stories, make declarations, and connect people. Spontaneous, random, informative, and personal, these virtual arenas thrive on words. Words are a critical economy in these public spheres.

There are spoken words – words which fill the air. At the dinner table, in the classroom, in meetings, on the bus, and in the line at the grocery store, you can’t get away from words. Spoken words help us order lunch, share our feelings, exchange information, and paint a picture of the future. ‘Invisible’ in many ways, the words which roll off our tongue are connected to us, while they also have a power all their own. Discovered at an early age, spoken words give humans agency.

There are printed words – words written in letters, contracts, newspapers, and books. Each collection of printed words is crafted and edited. Sealed in a particular time, printed words hold ideas, concepts, stories, emotions, and agreements. With lingo specific to an audience, words on paper capture the latest happenings, expose a person’s heart, announce a group’s shared commitment, or state an organization’s identity.

There are unspoken words – words in our head. These words point to worries, dreams, hopes, concerns, and disappointments. Some words in our head are spoken in our own voice, others are in the voices of coaches, teachers, parents, and peers. Whether locked inside or released into the world, these words impact. Words in our head motivate, support, criticize, question, build up, and calm.

Words, words, everywhere. We swim in a world of words. Yet I take words for granted. As significant and creative as words can be, I often don’t give words the respect they deserve. I read with little regard for the craft of writing; speak without thinking; tweet on the run. However when a song catches my attention, I stop, transported across time and remember the power of words. Watching the evening news, it is words which remind me of how fragile life is. And a simple, “I love you” at the end of a phone call always warms by heart.

What would happen if we more attentive to words – our words, others words, and the words around us?

Today…Speak intentionally. Wonder about words. Appreciate the art of language. And, most importantly, listen for words. And, if you are willing, share what word or phrase impacted you today?

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