“We live in a world of words. What we say about ourselves, to ourselves, about others and to others creates our reality. …. Words are everything to us” Reb David
I recently caused someone pain when I made a poor word choice in describing a challenge he is facing. It wasn’t my intention to cause pain but it did. This person responded by being angry, resentful, and defensive.
Initially, I defended my word choice because my intention was not to cause harm. After more thought, I understood that I needed to apologize because, intention aside, I hurt him.
Words have enormous power. Once they are spoken, they cannot be retrieved. I regret not choosing my words more wisely.
Judism recognizes evil speech, lashon harah in Hebrew, as the greatest of all sins because it can destroy relationships between people and nations.
Baal Sheem Tor, the 18th century founder of Hasidic Judism, taught that each human being is born with a fixed number of words to speak. When the final word is spoken the person dies. Note that it is the number of words spoken, not the choice of words. Therefore, since the word count is not known to us, our next word could be our last word.
In order to decide whether something is worth saying, Rami Shapiro asks us to consider these three questions:
1. Is what I am about to say true? If it isn’t true, don’t say it. If it is true then ask yourself…
2. Is what I am about to say kind? If it isn’t kind, don’t say it. If it is both true and kind then ask yourself…
3. Is what I am about to say necessary? If it isn’t necessary don’t say it. If it is necessary to say something that is less than kind, say it in a compassionate way and accept the consequences.
Although I hope for forgiveness, I realize that this person my never forgive my unkind words. Even so, I owe him a debt of gratitude because of the painful lesson this experience taught me.
In his book, The Five Agreements, Dr Miguel Ruiz lists the very first agreement as:
1. Be impeccable with your word. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.
Another life lesson (sigh).
Words to live by…