In the beginning was the Word…

Sometimes when we are busy, we are so preoccupied with ourselves and our performance and delivery we can neglect or overlook people, times and places in the heart.  We can assume a self-importance that relegates others into a descending order of priority.  We can let our egos get in the way of what we need to see and do.  We can use words without thought, words that diminish or deny the value of another view.  So, as October and Ordinary Time continues apace perhaps it’s time to shake off that layer of self-absorption and become aware again of the world around us and the way we use our words in creating that world.

We need to lean in and listen to the hum of humanity alive around us.

Lockdown has siloed some of us as we work from home and communicate via Zoom and do not have the daily discourse, corridor chat or incidental banter that freshens and recharges our thinking.  Without other views or ideas to temper our own, we can become intransigent in our outlook, judgemental and dismissive.  We can lose perspective when we listen to the same voices on the same channel, an unending diet of confirmation bias which is not healthy if we want to grow an attitude that is open and responsive.  So, as we shake off the lockdown blues and travel bubbles with warmer weather, we need to recover that expanded version of ourselves and be reminded that we still live in a lucky country.  This is not to overlook the hardships and frustration that many have been through over the past eighteen months, but we are not in Afghanistan – we are not under pressing daily threat.

We can voice a dissenting opinion, have a contrary view, engage in the public conversation robustly, looking for the truth amongst spin and rhetoric and the florid pontifications of the commentariat.  It is what Jesus did.  He was not afraid of calling things out to get to the truth.  He was not afraid of those in power whose leadership was dishonest or hypocritical.  He spoke the truth in love.

One of my daily joys is to read the letters to the editor and to see the array of views canvassed.  I often see the same names and admire the measured calm of some letters and the more passionate tone of others.  I heartily agree with some sentiments and heartily disagree with others.  Occasionally, I am minded to send a letter in, too – a small effort to put my thoughts together succinctly.  I am part of the vox populi and am daily grateful that I can express myself with suitable care, candour and common sense.  I am reminded, too, of the letters sent by the early Christians, letters of exhortation and encouragement, letters written to build up a community, not tear it down.  Letters as lifelines and the lines of life.

The playground chant of Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me is a lie.  Words can build or belittle, valorise or vilify.  What we do with our words, daily, within our families, workplaces, our communities, online or within earshot, tells the world who we really are.  I am ever encouraged by Joan Chittister’s words: Don’t be afraid to speak.  Be afraid of what will happen to the whole truth if you don’t.  Today with so many competing voices and self-appointed experts, the truth is a contested thing.  “My truth” is the phrase of the age and on some occasions it trumps “the truth” because it is a personally confected hybridised version which may have little objective truth in it.  The whole truth is not owned by the loudest voice or the position of power or the official version.  Sometimes the whole truth is only heard when other voices are included in the public square.

Words are touchstones for the spirit.  In the parables and poetry, psalms and proverbs of the bible we have words that have spoken to the human condition for thousands of years; words that have comforted and counselled; words that have inspired and instructed; words of joy and justice and judgement.  As Proverbs 16:24 reminds us, Gracious words are like honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.

Words have wings.  They have the power to transport us to other times and places, to see our better selves in heroes, to beckon us to new worlds of understanding, to find common ground, to touch our souls.  American writer, Wallace Stevens, reminds us that The word is the making of the world.  In a world that is word-weary because words have become wounds and weapons, we need to think about how our own words, in our daily, digital and communal lives, are making the world around us.

The right words are balm for wounds, vision in the fog of venality, the portal to a new spaciousness of thinking, the truth to tell.

Perhaps in our daily lives, we can do well if we subscribe to Rumi’s wise counsel:

Let your words pass through three gates:
Is it true?
Is it necessary?
Is it kind?

By Ann Rennie


Faith Reflections


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Melissa Tonkin

Thank you 🙏 for your words. They always serve to lift my spirit .
God Bless.

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