Faith vs Fear

Faith vs Fear

Monday, January 31, 2011

Words Matter

With all the focus lately on the need for civility going on in the national dialogue, I've been thinking about the power of words. Pundits from both sides claim that violent metaphors used to describe political and social conflict don't really matter because "they are just words." It reminds me of the old childhood rhyme: "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me." But words do matter, and names can hurt. Words are what we use to convey thoughts, ideas, and emotions. What we say to others can build them up or destroy them. Elisa Brinton, a young writer I interviewed last summer put it this way: "It has often been said that the pen in mightier than the sword, and that’s very true. You can change the world with words. For example, the Declaration of Independence was just words, but look what it led to."

I like the words to the hymn "Let Us Oft Speak Kind Words to Another":

Let us oft speak kind words to each other
At home or where'er we may be;
Like the warblings of birds on the heather,
The tones will be welcome and free.
They'll gladden the heart that's repining,
Give courage and  hope from above,
And where the dark clouds hide the shining,
Let in the bright sunlight of love."

Hymns, 232

Or in the immortal words of John Lennon:
"You say you've got a real solution
Well, you know
We'd all love to see the plan
You ask me for a contribution
Well, you know
We are doing what we can
But if you want money for people with minds that hate
All I can tell is, brother, you'll have to wait."

And what we say to ourselves also matters; it influences our feelings of self-worth. For instance, when I get discouraged and down on myself, my whole attitude suffers. But when I say to myself, "I can get through this crisis," I feel confidence returning, and I can work through my problems better.

One of the recent threads at Spouses of Bipolar in an Active Relationship was on the subject of what we love about our spouses. It was a great exercise to list some of the things that I appreciate about David, and helps me keep things in perspective, especially when he's being cross. Here is my list:
* Hard-working.
* Creative and innovative, especially around the house or when he wants to try cooking something. It can be a bad thing, but he's come up with good things, too.
* Honest and sincere.
* Adventurous; we love going on short drives and taking off down unexplored and sometimes little-travelled roads.
* Funny.
* Really good with children. I love watching him interact with our grandchildren as well as children in our ward and neighborhood.
* Plain-spoken; says what he thinks.
* Caring, especially to those who are older and need help.
* Takes his disorder seriously; works hard to manage it.
* Muscular (all those workout sessions at the gym).
* Quiet; he knows the value of companionable silence.
* Willingly helps around the house, doing dishes, laundry, etc.

David's moods have been reasonably steady, but the cold, overcast weather is taking a toll on his spirits. I think that one of the reasons he gets depressed is that he doesn't have enough to do. He really needs a part-time job, but we're having trouble lining one up, and he's having a hard time motivating himself to really look. He also still doesn't sleep enough. His dr. prescribed another sleeping pill for him so we'll see if that will help him get some more rest.

The weather gets me down, too. I'm looking forward to the return of warmer weather. A recent highlight: I saw the layout for the story I wrote on leadership for the magazine. I'm excited to see it in print in another few months. That's what I love about my job: getting to work with words!


  1. Words do matter. The violent rhetoric that comes from some TV news stations is horrible. The hate speech, and the frequent usages of words pertaining to violence like "targeting" really bothers me. I am greatly offended by the many demeaning terms used to refer to women. "Bitch" is often used if a woman is assertive. And "crazy", "psycho", "schizo" and the like serve to further the stigma that enshrouds mental illness and prevent people from seeking help or from disclosing their illness to others. I think people need to consider their words more carefully before they use them and think about the effects those words can have on others. I'm sure your husband would be pleased to see all those kind words you used to describe him.

    This is my first visit to your blog, and I really like it. I also write a blog about mental illness, though I am the consumer. I hope you will stop by it sometime.

  2. Welcome, Jen! I'm glad you like it. I stopped by yours yesterday; very nice!
    I think you said it well here about hate speech. I know it's not pc, but I really don't think hate speech was what the founding fathers had in mind when they put the right to free speech in the Constitution.
    And so true about demeaning words for women as well as mental illness.


Welcome! I'm so glad you dropped by. I'm always happy to hear what you have to say.