The Power of Words

In one of my culture classes I learned the difference in communication styles among cultures.  In some countries they think before speaking.  Sometimes the silence is awkward, but the person knowing the power of words, remains silent until the correct words can be spoken.  In the United States we tend to speak and then think.  Then we are surprised by the result that ensues. That lesson changed me and my life in many ways.

First, I don’t speak on topics of substance until I have a response that merits listening. In other words, I don’t want to waste people’s time. Sadly the result is one of two responses: 1-they think I don’t understand and they get louder in expressing their viewpoint. 2-they really think I’m shallow.

Second, It takes a long, long, long time for people to get me.  It took one person fifteen years to figure out my silly personality is a facade.  That  is the consequence of respect in this country.  I’d rather appear silly and have people learn otherwise than it be the other way around.

The point: my response to the negative light cast upon police officers has been silence. Until now. Actually it is the same response I have towards negative aspersions cast upon anyone who has dedicated their lives towards making this country a better place. When are we going to say thank you? When are we going to say I pray for you? Why must we be quick to condemn and slow to appreciate? And lastly, why are we punishing the whole for the actions of the few?  Trust me I feel punished when I hear the acerbic tone in your response of support to either side in this issue. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one.

And I say we, because I am an American.  Whether or not I agree or disagree with something you’ve said or done I am your sister in nationality. And, family sticks together.

Bible verse with cloudy background

Something my mother used to say.

As a mother, sister, friend I am passing on some advise that I learned from my mother. (Actually she got it from the bible. My mother would say proverbs like they were common family expressions. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized she was quoting the bible.)

She would say  “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1)  We all have been hurt by the events in Missouri, New York, Ohio and now Phoenix. If we are going to heal and grow we need to stop with the harsh words and start with responding with answers that will extinguish rather than exacerbate the fire storm that is among us?

The thing is this. Gentle answers take time. Gentle answers take hearing the whole story. Gentle answers require the desire for peace, resolution, and cohesion.  If anything, the firestorm that is among us has reaffirmed the lesson I was taught in that classroom many, many years ago. I will think before I speak, even if it is awkward, even if it gives the pseudo conception of shallowness. Because words have power. I will use mine responsibly. And, I close imploring you to do likewise.

5 replies »

  1. Well said Trish! I too have refrained from speaking out (outside my home that is) for fear of offending friends with my words. My husband is a project manager for a construction company and I like his motto, he tells his guys: “Don’t come to me with a problem, come to me with a solution to your problem and we’ll talk.”
    Seems appropriate here too!

    • I use that philosophy with my students. It allows them time to explore all their feelings about the problem.

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