What’s in a Word?

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer.    Psalm 19:14

Sometimes I don’t think we give thoughts to what words really mean and the power behind them.   Preachers tend to “play” with words, attempting to understand their origin and deeper meaning.  I know that people, whether they’re married, live across the street or from a varied level of education, struggle with communication because words mean different things to different people.   I often find myself between attempting to understand other’s meaning found in words while attempting to understand the roots of the meanings where the words originated.

The old saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me,” is a bit of a ruse.   Words can hurt…and deeply so.   There have been times in my life when a word slips out and I wish I could grab it and put it back in my mouth because the damage control from the confusion or hurt they can cause can be exhaustive. 

David, if he wrote Psalm 19, was wise beyond his years.   He doesn’t just look at the words, he connects them to his heart from whence they were launched.   Our hearts and minds choose the words we speak so really the issue at hand is what within my heart and mind is motivating our word choice?   What’s inside pushing my buttons or running the show?   As Jesus said, “it’s what comes out of a person that defiles them” because the words reflect the content of the mind and heart. 

No doubt, though, words create.  What comes out of our mouths creates whatever it is that is within us, for good or not so good. 

This is why silence, is sometimes far better.  When anxious, our minds and hearts are conflicted and attempt to blurt out something to respond to wherever we find ourselves or with whatever situation we have created.   We all have felt when words from another are sincere, having weight and life behind them, and when words are feeble and empty, sometimes deceiving.

If one is careful to be sensitive within, it is possible to feel one’s body receive words, or to resist them by the level of tension we experience.   This is why people who are living a lie tend to become defensive, sometimes violently so, when a word contradicts what is in their heart and mind.   Screaming matches generally have no veritas.   I’ve seen a lot of screaming matches lately when one person tries to communicate and another screams back at them.   So as the psalm goes, what’s going on in the heart and mind that yield such a vociferous reaction?  What are they hiding from? 

Words create, but they don’t always create reality.  They do create that which is in our hearts and minds.  And if our words are fraught with emotion, it might be good to put the horse in the stable to cool down and find out what kind of stone is stuck in the hoof causing so much consternation.   It’s good to examine ourselves from time to time as to what’s lurking in our minds and hearts to discern what’s driving our bus.  Else we mind end up running someone over or find ourselves in a tight spot because we could drive right off the cliff. 

Holding up our heart and mind thoughts to God can leave us running like a purring cat on the inside.   I allow my mechanic to tune up my truck because I don’t have the equipment to do so.  This is why it’s good to give God a chance to look under the hood of our hearts and minds.  Our words will come out better because of it—and so will the quality of our days and relationships.

What’s in a word?   We are. 


Fr. Mark