Words and communication are complicated. Though we seek out those with whom we have common interests, we rely on their words (and actions) to determine whether we keep those people in our lives.
It’s through communicating—using our words—that we’re able to get to the crux of who someone is and what their viewpoint/opinion is. How often have you heard a mother say to a child when that child is frustrated, angry, or anxious: Use your words!
Words, when strung together in such a way that they evoke inspiration or emotion or what the soul needs, can literally save us. Using them to inspire, promote, encourage, soothe, inform, and spread positive messages are one of the most important things we can do.
So often, someone saying something to me just when I needed to hear it the most has made a difference in how I view a situation or a life lesson. Or I read something or hear a song and the words reflect exactly how I feel.
It’s why I string them together—to make a point, to receive validation, to entertain, to inspire, to be heard, and to leave my mark. It’s why you do too. We leave a legacy with them. From reading your posts, I glean some sense of who you are. I try to use my words justly, for lack of a better word.
Words – Harder than Stones, Sharper than Sticks – and Salvation for the Soul
Remember the quote—Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me? I disagree. They can harm greatly. The way in which we use them on this massive platform has made both positive and negative impacts on lives. I bet you can remember some of the loveliest ones uttered to you and the most hateful ones. I think they can change the trajectory of a life—that’s how powerful they are.
There was a time in my life when things were seriously messed up. I didn’t know who I was, what I wanted, where I would end up. I went to the doctor with strange aches and pains. Stress can tap dance all over you.
After receiving the news that nothing was wrong with me, I cried in relief and in frustration. The doctor, a kind and empathetic soul, told me that I needed to find a way in which to manage my stress. After listening patiently as she quoted the usual remedies—meditation, relaxation techniques, yoga, exercise–and watching me as my eyes glazed over, she said this:
“We don’t always understand why things happen the way they do. But you’ll get through this and you’ll be better and stronger because of it. I know this. Everything’s going to be alright, you’ll see.”
She then recommended a book, Where the Heart Is by Billie Letts. It was all about despair, survival, hope, and things working out. Her words and the sincerity behind them changed me. Would I have ended up in the same place had I not heard them? I don’t know, but what she said to me was exactly what my troubled heart and tortured soul needed at that moment.
The Best Words Can Change the World
If you’re a lover of words, prose, poetry, I bet you have a journal for the purpose of writing phrases or quotes down. I do. Sometimes they’re thoughts of my own, some are from conversations I’ve heard in various places and others are quotes from great writers, philosophers, songwriters, poets, artists, leaders, and thinkers.
Below are a few quotes regarding words and writing.
I love writing. I love the swirl and swing of words as they tangle with human emotions. –James Michener
Words are loaded pistols. –Jean-Paul Sartre
Whatever words we utter should be chosen with care for people will hear them and be influenced by them for good or ill. –Buddha
Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind. –Rudyard Kipling
The difference between the almost right word & the right word is really a large matter—it’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning. –Mark Twain
Words create sentences; sentences create paragraphs; sometimes paragraphs quicken and begin to breathe. –Stephen King
I’m apt to get drunk on words…Ontology: the word about the essence of things; the word about being. –Madeliene L’Engle
Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak knits up the o-er wrought heart and bids it break. –William Shakespeare
I know nothing in the world that has as much power as a word. Sometimes I write one, and I look at it, until it begins to shine. –Emily Dickinson
But words are things, and a small drop of ink,
Falling, like dew, upon a thought produces
That which makes thousands, perhaps millions think. –George Gordon Byron
Now, don’t get me started on words about love, friendship, joy, hardship, loss, and the like. That’s a whole other post.
When have words changed you? Resonated with your soul or heart? Who are your favorite writers, poets, and songwriters? Any favorite quotes or words?
Use your words and choose them wisely. 😉
P.S. (Enjoy some words from the great Van Morrison while you’re writing some of your own. They all come from our own personal and mystical place, don’t they?)
I think words carry power, more power than we know Brigitte, and we can use this power for good or for evil. And as you imply in your post, we should choose wisely. ❤
I so agree, Diana. And so nice to see you. I so appreciate your kind words. ;). xo
I’ve never liked the sticks and stones saying either, because I think it’s so far from from the truth. Broken bones will heal, but malicious words can stay with us forever. Sometimes what someone thinks is an innocuous tease or a transitory scolding isn’t at all. It can stay with the person for a long time, sometimes even send them down a path they didn’t think (or want) to take. So I think Sartre’s quote is spot on: “Words are loaded pistols.”
Way to use your words, Brigitte!
I read it first appeared as a nursery rhyme in the 1800s when bullying wasn’t on a global word-wounding scale as it can be today. But, I never liked it either. Come to think of it, some nursery rhymes are kind of odd and off-putting. Rock a bye baby comes to mind with the baby, cradle, and all tumbling down to the ground from a tree. Weird.
And I agree with you about a tease or a scolding—it can stay with you. Lots of phrases can from well-meaning and/or ignorant people. I suppose it’s up to the individual, as an adult, to slough them off and get on with things.
Coming from an accomplished wordsmith such as yourself, I’ll take your kind words to heart, as I’m sure you intended. Thanks, Carrie.
You’re welcome. 🙂
It’s been shown that teasing about a girl’s weight by a father or brother can have a large effect on girl’s development of an eating disorder. A well-meaning father might make a joke like, “Getting a little chunky, are we?” and not have any idea the effect it might have on the girl.
I can certainly understand that! I read that one’s same sex parent has much to do with how you treat yourself and how one’s opposite sex parent has much to do with how you feel about yourself. And words carry so much weight, especially when it comes to children. And it stays with you, which makes it difficult to undo that hardwiring inside the noggin.
Totally agree! I’m glad you navigated out of your difficult time, maybe with the help of some of the right words. They can be so powerful…. x 100000000 when they are used on huge platforms like this or other social media. Oh, the mistakes I’ve made from letting words fly too quickly or too harshly. (It’s hard for us verbal communicators to restrain ourselves). My new rule for communicating with someone who has made me angry/sad/hurt, etc., is to wait at least 24 hrs before doing anything. Don’t rush off that letter or email because more times than not, the feelings will settle and the communication with be more neutral and effective later.
My favorite poet is Mary Oliver… such a beautiful economy of means and commentary on the natural world. Check her out!
Have a great weekend! xxLaura
Hi Laura—so great to see you!! I don’t think there’s any one of us who haven’t gone through a difficult time and had someone come along and know just the right words to soothe, you know? I think as human beings we have a natural tendency to want to do just that–soothe and nurture. And, I agree with you about waiting until the dust settles.
Do you have the patience to wait Till your mud settles and the water is clear? Can you remain unmoving Till the right action arises by itself?
And thank you for the recommendation. I will indeed check Mary Oliver out. Thanks so much Laura and you have a lovely weekend yourself.
A very thoughtful post and a great tune to go with it. This one got me through many a foggy nightshift at the G. Ω
Hi Allan, well thank you! I love Van Morrison. I hope you’re home from your night shift, resting with sunshine and your lovely wife who, if I remember correctly, you referred to as the lioness in one of your posts. So nice to see you here!
Ahhhh, Brigitte, no more nightshifts for me. I retired last April and am spending my time with the Lioness, doing together what we could not do when the “work thing” was in the way.
I miss the view, but not the Daily Grind. Thanks for checking back on us. Ω
Well that’s wonderful! I hope you and your lady get to do everything you ever wanted to do. And those nightshifts can be rough, but music does pull one through all sorts of tribulations, eh? Thanks again, Allan.
This reminds me of a speech I heard recently from a Taiwanese talk show host who’s known for her wit and biting sarcasm. She’d said that despite her skill with words, they often became her weapon of choice especially against those she loved the most. Words can carry emotions that really speak to people but at the same time, when they’re not used in a manner for good, often end up hurting people more deeply than we might have thought possible. A thoughtful post as usual Brigitte, and I hope you enjoy your weekend!
I love sarcasm when done correctly and there’s a line. Biting sarcasm can be hysterically funny but some people don’t know when to stop or where the line is. Words stick forever. I’ve said harsh words to people and regretted it almost instantly and have had that same barrel of verbiage pointed at me. I think we learn how much weight they carry and how much a difference just a few kind words, even to a stranger, can make. I’m great at self-deprecation. I can come up with some great words in that respect. HA! Wonderful to see you as always, Lillian—thank you.
Words have certainly impacted me. When I left San Francisco to move to NYC almost 33 years ago, I had three very close friends in SF. One was a gay guy who I remained in contact with for about ten years. He moved to New Mexico and over time we gradually fell out of touch. He used to write me great letters. I thought they were in a box in my father’s house, but when I helped my siblings clean out the house last fall, that box was gone. When I think of that guy, I have very fond memories of him. The second was a woman I first met in kindergarten, we met again in high school, but didn’t become friends until college. She was very into appearances and liked to make a big deal out of having a friend in NYC, but it bothered me that she inflated things she said about me. I knew she wanted me to be someone she could brag about. There was a period of several years when I worked film production and was writing screenplays at night. I finally scored a Hollywood interview but it didn’t go well. This infuriated her and she announced, “You don’t want to be successful!” That bothered me a lot, so much that it was a friendship breaker. I’m sure that she has no recollection of ever having said that. But she had no idea of how hard it was to work production and write. I tried, but not everyone is meant to succeed. I came close , but it just didn’t work out. I sure didn’t need her to ride my back and judge me about it. The third friend from SF is a woman I refer to as BatPat on my blog. I’ve know her almost 37 years and as much as each of us changes, at our core, we’re still who we were when I was 19 and she, 21. When that interview didn’t go well for me, BatPat sent me a plant with a card saying that film studio fucked up – the polar opposite of the uppity jerk. BatPat and I always know what to say to each other. She was there at my dad’s funeral. She also has two terrific kids and I’m close to her husband, too (I’ve known him as long as her). Even their bird rocks. Some people just get you and know what to say and you in turn, get them.
Oh, letters! Don’t you miss them, V? What a treasure you have with that friend and I bet you wished you still had his letters. I used to write letters to my family when I was away from them. I once wrote one to my sister on circular paper where she had to keep spinning it around to read it. I keep telling myself that I’m going to make some groovy stationery and begin writing, actual penmanship, to friends. You’ll have to give me your address. ;).
The other woman you described sounds like a “fair weather” friend. There are those people in our lives who are there to celebrate when everything is going great. That’s a terrible thing to say to you especially after you were already feeling rather broken. The last thing you needed were sharp words. You may be right about her not even remembering. When people are into appearances and status, their priorities are normally not in line with yours. She probably didn’t give it a second thought. When I was 15, I think it was, I was excited telling everyone at a family gathering I was going to be a writer and go to college and get a degree in English or Writing. “What are you going to do with that? You won’t be able to find a job,” a relative said. It crushed me. I remember it well to this day.
Batpat sounds wonderful and one of those friends that no matter how long you’re apart, when you meet again, it’s like you’re taking off right where you left off. That’s a precious thing and I know you must guard that friendship ferociously. Thanks so much for sharing, V. I love your comments.
P.S. (Did you enjoy screenwriting? I’m thinking of taking a class…)
I would not classify her as a fair weather friend, even though she might sound like one in my comment, Brig. She just grew more and more materialistic and status obsessed over time. That’s where we parted ways, not to imply that I’m an ascetic, but it became very apparent to me that we had opposing values. BatPat and I don’t agree on everything. She evolved into a practicing Catholic and a political conservative (somewhat), but we just agree to disagree about certain topics. Somehow our friendship continues to thrive and it’s very true that it’s very easy for us to pick up right where we left off. We just have better chemistry. As for letter writing, as romantic as it is, you’re on your own with that. My penmanship has atrophied and I’m much more comfortable writing on a keyboard. Shortly after I moved to NYC, my parents shipped me my three ton typewriter. No doubt reading my typed letters was a lot easier for everyone.
I know what you mean and it’s interesting to have friends who aren’t just like you, don’t believe like you, etc. Just leave the hot button topics out of the conversation, I always say. I’ve noticed my penmanship is suffering as well and I don’t like it. I had beautiful handwriting. I’ve tried to begin the practice of journaling to improve it. I wish I had a typewriter because they’re way cool. Even if you don’t use them, they look awesome just sitting around.
(I just wrote this long comment and now it’s gone…….can I insert a few “choice” words here?)
I’ll try again.
“Be still when you have nothing to say; when genuine passion moves you, say what you’ve got to say, and say it hot.”
“Poetry is just the evidence of life. If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash.”
These are two of my favorites. I’m going to add your James Michener quote to my notebook. You’ve listed some good ones. Cummings …mudlucious, what a great word.
I’ve been the recipient of some timely, thoughtful emails/letters( ahem) that have helped me a great deal. Words that just landed in the right spot, lifting me or wrapping in me in comfort. Words live and breathe. I think that’s why they can hurt so much.
(You had a very good Dr.). The bear picture( your words) really makes me smile. I love the little things you put into your posts..like a treasure hunt.
Happy Easter, my friend.
&!*!!%^!, dag nab it. I can see the steam of words rising over your home and floating into the air from here. I hate when that happens!!!
I LOVE the D.H. Lawrence quote—I’m adding that one—exquisite! No wonder you love the Cohen quote. I wish I could write poetry as well as you, or just write it period. Your work makes me think of e.e.cummings sometimes. I’ve been meaning to tell you that. The way in which he wrote words that weren’t words, but it was so natural and beautiful. Like your poetry.
I know what you mean. And I too have received thoughtful and wonderful emails (words) when I needed it the most from those who care (ahem back at ya). It matters so much when people take the time to say just a few words — it really does soothe the soul, doesn’t it? And you’re right, they can wound deep, when said with malice. I’m appalled at the way in which people go after people in social media. I don’t read it, I hear about it on news programs sometimes. I don’t understand the purpose of it. At all.
What a nice thing to say—I like that my posts are like a treasure hunt. And that bear is awesome, isn’t he/she? I have a bear picture I bought at Anthology. He’s drawn on a turquoise background, just his head and big old face and the letters above his head are displayed in white and say: I like you. It makes me smile every time I look at it.
Happy Easter to you, Audra and thanks so much for your sweet words.
You are way too kind. And I wish I could write a full sentence that would come alive into a full story as wonderfully and skillfully as you.
(I like your bear story very much)
Happy Easter to you as well…college gal is coming home(with a couple of friends in tow..yay. Full house.)
I am kind but I speak the truth as well. And thank you. Oh, how wonderful—you sound as if you’re going to have a great weekend. So happy for you Audra. Life is good, yes? Good morning. 🙂
This is one of your best blogs. I love it and I will read it often. A Brigittebanter classic.
I love you!
Thank you, sweet. I love you too.
Valuable post Brig. Do you sometimes think that people like us are to enamored or dependent on words? I doubt I will make sense here but I can have difficulty communicating with some people, like Derwood, because I need his words to be specific. He will bend words to make them generally mean what he means and I, in frustration, get annoyed because NO! Words are words and they mean specific things, they don’t sort of mean things. There are dictionaries and thesaurusi full of words and their meanings and parts of speech and etymology. Sometimes life is hard for us Wordies.
Well written my friend.
I do think so, yes, we wordies may be enamored with words, but I think everyone needs to use words wisely and kindly despite she/he being a wordsmith or not, you know? I know exactly what you mean about communicating with your husband. I do the same with mine. I have to get him to repeat things because he’s very technical at times especially when it comes to him talking about his work. It drives me nuts. And thank you, Maggie, love it when you drop by.
Words are powerful and when used wisely can be exalting and healing. When used in fear and hatred, they can be maiming and deadly. I love the thoughts you’ve expressed in this post and the words you used for them. I wish more people in today’s world would stop and think before blurting out the first words that come to mind.
So true, JM! Sometimes I think these anonymous platforms that people have can illicit negative messages. I’m not sure if it’s because people feel as if they can’t be “discovered” or that it gives them freedom to be someone else while doing so. I too wish that people would think before responding. We do in polite society—I mean, just think if everyone said something—a knee-jerk reaction when someone makes you angry. Not so good. That’s why it’s important for us to remember our social mores and well, just be kind — in deeds and in words.
Thanks so much for stopping by. Great to see you.