As a writer, I believe wholeheartedly in the power of words. They can inform or dazzle; interest or amuse. They have the power for immense healing and deep harm. I try to be careful when I write, because I only want to use this power for good. More than that, I am cautious when I speak. My words can injure others, and I can also hurt myself pretty badly. I’d rather heal.
Over the years I’ve known a few people who’ve tried to oppress me with their language, calling me names and cutting me down. I’ve removed those people from my life, but I cannot divorce myself from the worst offender—me. I’ve had to clean up my act, ruthlessly scouring my language for words like can’t, shouldn’t, and must. I used to describe myself as clumsy, forgetful and disorganized. Since I kept telling myself that I was all these things, it was no great surprise when I tripped over something I’d accidentally left on the floor. After all, I had predicted it.
These days I use a different tactic. Instead of saying that I am disorganized, I try to tell people that I am working towards greater order. I will say that I sometimes trip. That isn’t the same as clumsy. Everyone trips and falls. I am an ordinary human. I’m not perfect at this little language trick, and I have been known to call myself all manner of nasty names. Now, however, I’m trying to correct myself when I become aware that I am doing it. I don’t want that insult to stand and hold me back.
My friends have been very helpful in this regard. They watch my language, calling me on any missteps I make when I speak of myself. This has allowed me to cultivate my own inner censor, and many times I can now catch myself in the middle of the offending words. I then rephrase them out loud. It’s important to correct my language right at the moment—after all, I’m listening to everything that I say. Words are a powerful magic, and I want the spell I am casting to reap only positive results. Presto! Chango! Now I just need one of those nifty little wands that turns into a bouquet. . . .
Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:
29. Listen to yourself or a friend talk for a day. Are words holding you down? What can you do about it?