“There’s something flowing now, from the depths of my being. It’s secure and simple, conscious, complete and freeing.”
Benami-from the lyrics of “Say Something”
What makes the power of speech so special and unique to human beings?
In my last blog I spoke about free will being one of the main characteristics of human beings and how it separates us from the animals. Another quality that is unique to human beings is our capacity for conscious, complex communication. Let’s imagine a married couple on the night of their tenth anniversary. They slide into their seats in a candlelit corner of their favorite restaurant. They exchange gifts as the wine reaches the table. She loves the earrings! Clearly he was paying attention when they passed the jewelry store and she noticed them. He loves the card! It’s even better than the watch she gave him, because she is such an expressive writer and is revealing new levels of depth and appreciation for their connection and relationship. She is disappointed that his card simply states the Hallmark poem with his quick addition of “happy anniversary.”
“Come to think of it, he does a lot of nice things for me, but he never tells me that he loves me,” she thinks. The food reaches the table. He was keen enough to order her favorite appetizer. There is an odd silence as they wait for the main course. Especially strange considering they have been married for ten years, but don’t have much to say.
Why is it so important to her that he actually verbalize his love for her? Why does it matter that he didn’t write anything original on the card or that there is silence at the table, even though he has expressed appreciation and love by giving her a present that shows his attention to her desires? Speech is so innate to our expression as human beings that our thoughts come mostly in the form of words. We can express much of our essence with the words that we choose to use. We can also hide the essence of who we are by using words that are not fitting or appropriate for the sensitivity of our souls.
In the story above, the wife wants to hear her husband’s words, because when we speak we reveal more of the essence of our feelings than with what we physically give . She sees his gifts, but she will never experience first hand that how he feels for her is genuinely a part of his essence until he says it. Closeness and depth of relationship are built through the power of speech.
Words create new realities
A father tells his son that he will definitely be at his little league game tonight. “Wouldn’t miss it for the world,” he calls as he heads out the door to the office. The boy has little hope left that his father will actually come to the game. Unfortunately, there’s still a little glimmer of hope that stings worse than outright rejection. He knows all too well that his father’s words hold little weight and he wishes he would just say, “No, I can’t make make it,” instead of breaking his words time and time again.
Words affect our view of the world
One girl exclaims to another, “Oh my gosh she is so awkward, she came into class the other day wearing rain boots and a rain jacket and it was totally sunny outside.” The other girl thinks, “I had never noticed that she was awkward, but now that you mention it…”
Our words can bring others down
A man walks in the door after a full days work and trips over a pile of shoes and miscellaneous objects in front of the door. “This place is like a war zone!” he comments, not knowing that his wife has spent hours trying to straighten up and it still isn’t making a dent. His wife feels hurt and unappreciated. Running the house is almost too hard. Her husband’s comment is the straw that breaks the camel’s back. It is too hard, she doesn’t know how she’s going to survive with such pressure.
Our words can build others self confidence
A son says something quite inappropriate to his sister at the dinner table. His father lovingly explains, “For someone as sweet and sensitive as you, it just isn’t fitting to speak like that.” His son feels important and recognized. He cannot speak to his sister like that when there is so much love present in the room. He feels driven to improve.
We can inspire people and we can destroy them with our words. I had a teacher who used to say that if we try to stop speaking badly about others, the negative words will eventually break through, because until we start to judge and view people in a positive light we are merely acting positive and a mere act cannot last forever. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t “fake it till we make it,” but ultimately we must learn to focus on the positive. Then our words will naturally be words of gratitude, words of inspiration, and words of truth.