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Posts Tagged ‘empty words’

I am in the talking business. Honestly. Whether it’s in my current line of work serving the library public or my other life as an actress and presenter, or my private life of pure chatter, my mouth is in constant motion. How often has the flow from my heart been distorted without my knowing it?

James 3:8, 10 – 11
. . . but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. . . . Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring?

As I contemplated these verses today, I kept going back to the birthplace of the tongue’s motion. After all, the tongue is but a tool; it’s not like training an animal that has some personal will, the tongue is a medium. No, the message is born in the mind and heart and whatever taming is done must begin there.

The mind bears the content but the heart carries the emotion. They work in tandem and can equally obliterate the results.

For this reason, the impetus comes across as a restless evil, with a range of anxieties and uneasy moments, with unexpected impacts like a meteor shower of the soul, the heart and mind react. They form a thought or feeling before it is registered in reason. They are the knee jerk of the patellar reflex.

The hardest thing for me to remember and to accept is the inevitable damage of the reflexive, restless discharge from my mouth as it colors everything else. Like the salty spring that salinates fresh water, so my ill-conceived words distort even the best message.

I am believing, as the heart and mind are transformed by the presence of the Holy Spirit, the tongue, poor stepsister, will respond to sanctification as well. But it has to be organic. Anything else will be a fake out and the words and intent will expose the truth within.

“By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?” [Matthew 7:16]

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Photo by Natdiastok

Wikipedia states, “pollution is the introduction of contaminants into a natural environment that causes instability, disorder, harm or discomfort to the ecosystem i.e. physical systems or living organisms.” I do that.

James 1:26a, 27c
Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, . . . keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

Language is a gift that humans have. With it, we can calm a child, paint word pictures, bring joy and laughter, or elicit memory and sorrow; we can also ruin a reputation, fill space with toxicity, hurt someone’s heart, start a fight, or destroy a relationship. Just with words.

Sometimes I think I have a good knack with words, but too often, I misuse my gift.

Some years ago, I went on a silent retreat at All Saints Convent. I had been there before for shorter retreats but never in full silence. I didn’t realize this silence would also mean no one would engage me – not with eyes or touch or anything. It was like I wasn’t there. In my loneliness, I sought out books and wrote in my journal.

But I wonder, were there still too many of those words? Did I really go into the silence?

My daughter asked me the other day if I have ever tried meditation and could I really sit and think of nothing? I said I had, more in the realm of contemplative prayer, but the battle with words was tough. I can do the flowing river routine for about a minute, maybe. No, truth be told, I am still a slave to the automatic typewriter in my head.

I have said some terrible things to people and I’ve said some terrible things about people. It’s all gossip and diarrhea of the mouth.

People always say, “think before you speak” and the joke for me is that I often speak so I can hear what I’m thinking.

On Wednesday, I went to an acupuncturist in hopes of getting some relief from hot flashes. After the treatment, she said the process is a kind of drawing out of heat from the body and often it leaves through body waste. I’d like to dump some of those mean words the same way and flush them down the toilet.

You, out there: you I know and you I don’t know . . . please forgive me.

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'City of Words', lithograph by Vito Acconci, 1999

What are “empty words” and how do they get so much power? They can mean loud, confused talk; they can mean sheer rhetoric (wordiness); or they can be just idle talk and chatter. Words, words, words: what is said and how we say them; they all matter after all, for good or ill.

Ephesians 5:6a, 8
Let no one deceive you with empty words, . . . For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light . . .

I have been struggling so much the last few days to temper my speech. I have tried to stop myself from speaking maliciously or unintentionally “catty.” I can put such an arch in my voice that even if the words are harmless, the intent is not. I know it and I know their power.

Now, there is another layer to consider and that of empty words, the yakkity yakkity yak that has no value whatsoever really and yet can do harm. How many cliches do I use in a day and what do they bring to a conversation really?

But I still wonder about those empty words that carry enough power to bring down the wrath of God. These empty words are chosen to deceive. These are words that appear to have meaning but don’t. These are words that are spoken to give the listener what he/she wants to hear perhaps. These are “wooing” words. These words do not carry the whole truth. They dissemble. They lie.

Though I confess I have used empty words in chatter, let me not use words to deceive. Once again, make me exceedingly mindful of my words today.
(FD 4)

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