We all know that this is patently untrue. Words hold intent. Words can comfort and soothe; equally, they can pierce and abuse. Mindless chitchat can fill an empty void. Gossip can become blood sport and lead to vilification and bullying. We can say, “I love you” in many ways with a variety of undertones. And the glorious words of poets and novelists can uplift and inspire us. Words hold energy. Words have power.
Buddha talked about the right use of language. He called it Right Speech — as well as Wise Speech and Virtuous Speech. Right Speech is the third of the Noble Eightfold Path. The idea is to use speech mindfully and as part of an ethical life. And when we make the inevitable mistakes, we can course correct and learn anew.
Years ago, I read a concept about how to use our words responsibly. Are we being compassionate or critical? Considerate or impulsive? The suggestion proffered that we pass through three gates of consideration in determining how responsible we are in the usage of our language:
- Are you needed?
- Are you sure you are true?
- Will you end up doing harm?
Using my language, I would rephrase the questions and considerations as these:
- Am I inserting myself where I am not needed, much less invited?
- Am I speaking my truth from a compassionate heart and a place of integrity and coherence?
- Am I aware of the impact off my words? Am I being hurtful or judgmental?
Our world is a pulsing body of energy and that includes the force and intent with which we use our words. And these days, our world is constantly bombarded with words of strife, divisiveness and vitriol. We forget that we are all one. And what one does energetically impacts each of us. It’s a lot like those butterfly wings in another part of the globe that create changes in the weather. Our words travel and can have many an unknown impact.
If we become more mindful of what we say and how we say it, we plug into our potential to be agents of change, healing and peace. How swell is that?
Let’s use our powers for good.