Sunday, 5 February 2012

The Power of Words

As you might of guessed, I like to write – and, despite uncomfortably common typos and grammar mistakes that I manage to include in my blogs (maybe I need an editor?) I do actually put a great deal of thought into word choice – most of the time.  Words are transformative, revolutionary, powerful.  They can also be horrible, hateful, counter-productive and useless.  What is said and what is written can never really be taken back (despite the lovely editing function that blogs have) because once words are heard or read they enter the brain forever – shaping the way another sees the world and perhaps even forming that person’s identity.  A good example of this is the ugly concept of racism.  A child whose skin is different-looking from that of his or her fellow students likely will think nothing of it until someone says something to them about it like “you’re black – why don’t you join the basketball team?”  Suddenly this child needs to connect the dots about why a black person might consider playing basketball purely because he or she is black and an idea is formed about how the world perceives him or her – a piece of identity is created.  How many off-hand, thoughtless comments have been tossed carelessly about only to change how people think about themselves forever?  Hmmm.  Children are particularly vulnerable to the words of parents – God actually wired them to listen to their parents – consider that when you want to react to a child who just dumped an entire bag of flour on your kitchen floor followed by a bucket of water.  Having reflected on this many times I have chosen to adopt a policy of trying to give credit when credit is due (even if this means embarrassing myself sometimes by being a little over-enthusiastic in meetings) and thinking very carefully about critical words before speaking or writing them (I think I just made myself accountable here – I’m not perfect, so feel free to remind me of this statement in future).  The things I regret most about my life all involve things that I said or wrote.  This idea has also lead me to a process of writing out my prayers to God – an awesome use of modern technology, as I reflect on my words to God I often discover attitudes that I need to correct – and I can edit.  Just as God keeps forgiving me, this is an act of forgiveness for myself.

Queen Elizabeth – daughter of Henry the 8th – understood the importance of the written word.  She knew that the world would be revolutionized by the simple act of written translation.  Prior to her rule, the Bible was only read by a select few in England – mainly the clergy and educated nobility.  To make the Bible available to all who could read in the vernacular (English) she was boldly making the statement – at the risk of her life – that God’s word needed to be accessed by more than just priests and monks.  At her coronation a young girl presented her with a Bible in English translation and Elizabeth kissed it, held it up high in the air, then to her breast.  This symbolic and carefully choreographed display was evidence that she was not going to let anyone stand in her way when it came to making the Bible more accessible.  Of course, it wouldn’t be for many more years before the average person would even be literate – but it was a giant leap for the modern world.

Hebrews 4:12 writes that the word of God (the Bible) is “living and active.”  To me, this means that it is always relevant and it never loses power.  These words are incredibly powerful – continuously revealing truths to its readers many centuries after its creation.  On that note - some of the best advice that I ever received came to me from a Bible study leader.  She had just presented us with a new book that we would be using as a guide through which to discuss the Bible – in the book were woven many ideas and interpretations that were not directly from the Bible but from the person that wrote the book.  I am not saying that it wasn’t a good book – but my Bible study leader asserted to us, before we got into it that we shouldn’t get on the “bandwagon” of the author of this book.  We should read it, consider it – but most importantly, compare it to the Bible.  The process of accepting words, interpreting them, must be acknowledged always – especially when you are allowing them to form your spiritual identity.


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