Day by Day: Words’ impact can last for life; choose wisely
By LIZ THOMPSON
January 22, 2018
This Week News
Words are powerful. They can make us smile, cry, rejoice or doubt. They can inspire us to improve, learn, apologize, question, create and think.
If you doubt the power of written or spoken words, consider the words “I do” spoken at a wedding and all that promise implies.
Think of the parent when a child says his or her first word — especially if it’s Mama, Papa or a version of the same.
The old retort to deflect cruel words, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me,” may work only for the moment. The long-term effects can be devastating if we are told often enough, especially when young, that we are stupid, ugly or other equally nasty names, and we believe it. We can only hope there is plenty of positivity in those same taunted lives — or that we can be there to soften the blows.
Authors of fiction, nonfiction, poetry and music have entertained, informed and given us reasons to sing and dance since the first word was written, the first instrument was fashioned and the first words sung.
As a writer, I respect words, and think through many times before submitting a column. I have done just that for 20 years this month. That’s a lot of words — and I have loved every minute.
I asked some friends what words they believe hold power.
Don Huiner, from Worthington, chose his power words in two groups. He placed despise, loathe, contemptible and worthless in one group; in the other, treasure, cherish, respect, value and thankful. I spy two words in the last group of positives that were turned into popular songs.
Pat Vincent, who lives in Grandview Heights, said, “When somebody says, ‘How are you doing, really?’ you know that they really want to know. They’re not just being polite.”
When I think about how many times a day we might say, “How are you?” without waiting for a reply, his words ring true.
Pat also said when a person looks at something you have done or said and responds, “That’s nice,” you can be pretty sure they are only being polite.
Dee Standish, whom I’ve known since kindergarten, said: ”‘I am here for you if you need me’ are powerful words for two reasons. The first, (you are) letting someone know you care and will support their needs. Second, it allows the person in need the freedom to respond when they might be vulnerable in varying situations. There is no pressure on either side.”
When words, or what we might think are the “right” words, seem to escape us, words of action or support suffice beautifully, as Dee says.
I wasn’t surprised when a friend from church, Mariann Rowe, chose hope as her most powerful word. One synonym for hope is faith.
When we hear bad news, in particular, hope can sustain us. We say we hope something good lasts. How often we say, “I can only hope … ” or “I hope you have a good day.”
I love reading fiction. I’m selective with the genre because I don’t need fearful or negative topics swirling through my head.
Some time back, I wrote my first novel. Since I’d always written nonfiction, the mechanics of writing fiction required research.
My first try was rejected by two publishers, but with good advice. Their words were powerful because they didn’t just say “no,” but they softened the blow with advice I took to heart. I knew I had a lot to learn. More research and more rewrites followed.
The last rejection told me to consider writing in third person, not first. I shifted gears, turned around and started again.
Words of rejection are hard to hear, but with practical advice, I was led to hope, to improve and to learn. That’s powerful.
Most people can name at least one author, song, speaker or teacher that had a lasting effect in their lives. My bet is those words they read or heard were positive.
We control the power of the words we speak or write when we take time to really listen and choose hopeful, caring words.