While I was in China, the concept of language became fascinating to me. It’s one of those things that either brings people together or creates a barrier between them. On a practical level, not knowing the language in a place where you’re residing can make your life challenging. I learned that. The first time I ordered a bowl of beef noodles in Mandarin and actually got a bowl of beef noodles, it was no small feat. Even dialects and slang seem to connect people or divide them. It’s easy to hear someone’s accent and make a quick judgement on who they are, where they’re from, and what their beliefs might be, regardless of how inaccurate that judgement may be. If I say to my grandad, in reference to his cat, “Princess Kibbles’ fur is ratchet,” he is going to have NO clue what I mean. Because he’s picturing the actual metal tool, while I’m referring to something that is “jacked up.” See what I did there? Even “jacked up” is slang.
Point being: words have a practical purpose. We all know that. However, I’ve learned lately just how much weight they carry with them. I have to remind myself of this everytime I open my mouth. Words can either build people up or tear them down.
If I can be honest, I’m more sensitive to words than most people. Words can make or break me, regardless of how healthy that is. It’s something I’m working on. I’ve watched those close to me experience the same thing. It’s painful to say the least. Even when…actually, especially when those words come out of the mouths of great people who mean well. It’s disheartening.
In my education class we’ve been working our way through all of the touchy subjects that are inevitably a part of every student’s life: race, religion, and sexual orientation, just to name a few. When we talk about those subjects, there are words that have come up that are pretty emotionally charged. But why? They carry baggage with them. For example: when someone uses the word “gay” to say that something is stupid. “I cracked my phone screen and now it looks all gay.” Why is that harmful? Because there are people who identify as gay and by using that word lightly, it appears that you’re calling them stupid. Or what about the n-word? The word in and of itself isn’t inherently bad. It’s the hundreds of years of slavery and inequality that it carries with it what makes it harmful.
I’m of the belief that our words also have a creative power to them. I believe we, to an extent, have the ability to speak things into existence. After all, we’re a product of a God who, as Genesis so poetically says it, spoke things into existence. Have you ever been in a room when someone spouted off insults at another person? Or even if they were just griping about something of relatively little small importance. The atmosphere of the room seems to change. There’s a shift that happens.
I guess this is my main point: lately I’ve been trying to be more intentional about what I allow to come out of my mouth. More kindness to people I know and the people I don’t know, all people, everywhere. Less judgement. Less telling others how to live their lives. And when I do open up my mouth, I want to be speaking about things that I truly believe are worth talking about. In an age where sharing one's opinion is so easy and common, I feel like one of the greatest challenges is learning to think before speaking.
Just thought I would share, since I believe this is one of those things worth talking about.