Our words say something about ourselves as well as others

| September 13, 2010 | 0 Comments

Words have a lot of power. We can use words to offer hope, mend wounds and respectfully challenge others to reassess their views and opinions. Or we can use words — as we too often do — as weapons to hurt and demean others.

I was reminded of that recently as I was exiting Target Field with a crowd of fans after a recent Twins game. Three women on a street corner along my route were garnering more than a little attention. They were provocatively dressed and trying to entice the men walking by with coupons for a local strip club.

As I passed by, a woman behind me yelled out: “Whores! That’s what you are, you know, taking off your clothes for men! You disgust me!”

The group of women waved her off and continued to hand out more coupons. The yeller kept walking. Then she said to no one in particular, “I bet they didn’t like hearing that.”

I bet they didn’t. But I didn’t either.

Not the right approach

While I was also offended by the business these women were peddling, especially with so many families with children walking by, hurling derogatory remarks at them was clearly the wrong thing to do. The words, spoken in the heat of anger, further demeaned their human dignity and ostensibly did little to change their minds about what they were doing.

As I continued walking, I wondered if other words  — perhaps delivered at a different time and in a different place — could have had a positive impact, or at least planted a seed: Words that conveyed hope instead of disdain. Words that reminded these women they are created in God’s image and are loved by him. Words that pointed out better options for making a living and that offered information about organizations with resources to help them transition to a better life.

The encounter outside Target Field left me reflecting on the words we use in our daily lives — particularly when we disagree, sometimes vehemently, with other people or their actions.

Choosing carefully

Our Christian faith calls us to speak the truth with love and compassion, not resort to epithets like “whore” — or “baby-killers” and “ragheads,” words I’ve heard a few people use in conversation lately or that were sent to me in unpublished letters to the editor.

And what about the ordinary encounters we have with family members, co-workers and the people we meet each day?

Too often, we don’t choose our words as carefully as we should, especially when we’re angry, hurt or offended. Most of us would do well to take a little extra time with our responses to ensure we’re communicating our feelings clearly, of course, but respectfully as well.

That advice particularly holds true in this age of e-mail, texting and other forms of instant communication, when sending a message in the heat of anger has never been easier.

Words are powerful. We need to wield them carefully, lest we do more harm than good to ourselves and others.

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Category: Editorials, Spotlight