I clearly remember the joy I experienced
when my kids uttered their
first words. On the flip side, there
have been plenty of times that I
have cringed when they have said
something I wish they hadn’t. (That’s
usually because I’m pretty sure where
they picked those words up.)
As a writer and editor, I cherish
words. I spend more time than I probably
should, searching for just the right
ones to convey what I’m trying to say.
Unfortunately, I’m also very aware
that certain words can have a very negative
impact. All you need to do is
check out the recent news for far too
many examples of that—most recently,
the Don Imus controversy.
Living God's Word
Yes, for good or for bad, words are
important. We use them every day to
communicate, express anger or frustration,
praise accomplishments or provide
comfort, answers or explanations.
We offer words of support in difficult
In short, there is no getting around
our love of words and our need for
communication. If you’re not so sure,
look around for a few minutes and you
can certainly see it—cell phones, e-mail,
instant messaging, wireless handheld
The challenge is then trying to “use
the power of words for good, not evil,”
to paraphrase my son in his best superhero
voice. We are reminded of this
each time we go to Mass and listen to
the Word of God. In those words we
can find direction, support, answers
Our Church leaders offer words of
guidance, instruction, reflection. The
same goes for doctors, politicians,
experts in various fields, and even
sometimes actors and athletes. Sometimes
those words resonate with us and
serve as a reaffirmation of what we
know and believe. Other times they stir us up or prompt us to action. But
no matter what, we seem to listen.
Conveying the Right Message
We know how important words are to
us, but what can we do to make sure
that we are using them to convey the
best and most loving message possible?
Here are some suggestions:
Accentuate the positive. Focus on
expressing yourself in a positive way.
You might find that it becomes contagious.
Instead of complaining, try to
focus on the positive in your conversations.
Or if you want to hear words
such as “please” and “thank you” more
often, use those more yourself.
Go slow. A lot of times we speak
before we think. Sometimes we’re
angry, trying to be funny or quick-witted,
or just get a word in edgewise.
But often what we say in the heat of the
moment will come back to haunt us
later. Try to think through what you’re
going to say before you even open your
mouth. It may save you in the long
run. And your mom was right: If you
don’t have anything nice to say, it’s
best not to say anything at all.
Take in the words. Try to stay
focused and reflect on the words you
hear at Mass, in both the readings and
homilies. You never know when something
might touch you in a way that it
hasn’t before. And take time to reflect
on what you are saying in the prayers
and responses you offer at Mass.
Time for a reality check. As I mentioned
earlier, some of the things my
kids have repeated, they first heard
from me or my husband. It’s always a
good reminder to shape up myself and
start leading by example. If I don’t want
my kids saying something, then I really
shouldn’t be saying it myself.
Speak up. If you hear someone
utter a word that you feel is unacceptable
or derogatory, call that person on
it in a polite way. Silence may be interpreted
as condoning the behavior. For
instance, my nieces and nephews—as
do a lot of kids—use the term “whatever”
pretty frequently. It’s not the
word that gets me, but the tone and
intent behind it that I find unacceptable.
And I’ve let them know that. I
am happy to say that not too long ago
I heard my nephew Rex tell one of his
friends not to use that word because his
Aunt Sue doesn’t like it.
Words will always be with us. It’s up
to us, though, to watch how we use