Words, words, mere words…no matter from the heart.-William Shakespeare
I remember this was written on a mug my AP English Lit teacher had in high school. I think it’s from Hamlet (yes?). I dunno…but it is a quote that I carried with me from that little high school classroom, to a vast college campus…to law school, to myspace headlines…to phone convos with my girlfriends late at night. Words.
Growing up, I had a lot of relatives that would end phone convos with “I love you…” I had relatives who wouldn’t. And I always wondered, what is the difference…? Do the people that say it mean it? And you learn, you learn that saying “I love you” means nothing if you don’t back it up with action. And so, the folks that never said it, gave their lives and happiness to keep me smiling, feeling comforted and satisfied…the ones that said it, consistently, gave me a line, fed me a line…and I repeated it, without an ounce of sentiment seeping from my heart.
Even if they’re from the heart. They are words if you don’t back them up with action.
So, you grow up. You learn when “I love you” means something, you discover what it feels like when “I love you” comes to soon… mind you, this isn’t the only line that falls into the “words words words” category. There are plenty of lines. Like the guy who told me he’d make my next Christmas the BEST ever (we never spoke to each other past October 10).
Do I say things I don’t mean? Ehh…maybe empty flattery like when I compliment someone’s jewelry. But even that, I try to keep it to a minimum. I like my words to count. Ever since I turned 20 and thanks to Oprah, read Manuel Ruiz’s “The Four Agreements”, I have desired to BE IMPECCABLE WITH MY WORD!
What does that mean?
Ruiz says: Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.
Wow. This is HARD. I am certainly guilty of not saying what I mean (rare but it happens), speaking against myself (sometimes, even if it’s just self-talk or something I express to a confidante at a vulnerable moment), gossip (ha! a favorite pastime!)…But as a writer, as an advocate, as a friend, as a sister, daughter, close friend…I recognize the power of WORDS (spoken and written). I try, always, to use it in the direction of truth. Sometimes, I am too honest. Honest to a fault (is that possible?). Do I use it in the direction of love? This is a huge question I have to weigh and measure.
Regardless, words have power. They create relationships…they destroy relationships. In the law, contracts rule. “What does the agreement say???” How often do we ask that? OR—did you put it on paper? Wow. How often do we depend on someone’s oral guarantee, assuming it’s legit, and walk away thinking, I wish you wrote this out, or I wish we exchanged some sort of collateral…How often?
So words are more than mere letters on a paper. They are absolute expressions. Aren’t they? So Ruiz recognizes their value…but Shakespeare…a literary GENIUS…discounts their value. What a battle!
Well, as much as I hate to do this, I think I’m going to have to agree with Ruiz. Words manifest intent. Say something aloud, something you may not even believe, say it enough times, and you start to believe it yourself. It’s human nature. Put yourself down enough, hear the words in your mind, and that’s the seed you plant in the garden of your being…you plant a garden of self-resentment. Look at yourself in the mirror each day, repeat a positive affirmation, by the 5th or 6th time, you may smile to yourself and actually start believing it.
Don’t waste your words people. Don’t tell people things simply b/c you know they want to hear them. Don’t sugarcoat stuff. Be HONEST. When your friend is dating the WRONG guy, ask the right questions…”Is he going to make you happy?” “Do you want to deal with this for the rest of your life?” “Is this what you imagined for yourself?”
Plant the seeds of reflection, analysis, and true thought. Don’t throw out the, “I’m so happy for yooou! You guys are so adorable.” Those are words. Even if you are happy…those are mere words and it certainly does not matter if they are “from the heart.”
So, stop spreading poison into the world. Stop sulking and complaining. Recognize the POWER of your words. Use your words to your benefit, to benefit others, and the world, as a whole. Be aware of the words that escape your lips as well as the words that you silently plant in your mind and heart. Say what you mean…and mean what you say.
Otherwise, you’re just making noise.