Spirit Matters: Stop killing with your words

In practical terms, most of us in the United States are not starving.

Although money is tight for many, food and other nourishment is accessible for the vast majority.

Don’t get me wrong. I know there are many people out there who don’t know where their next meal is coming from. They often fall through the cracks, despite the efforts of many to ensure otherwise.

But for the sake of this topic, I am speaking of the average person, with some income, and the basic necessities of life provided.

We are not starving for food.

We are starving for kind words.

Particularly from ourselves, to ourselves.

I have been fascinated with words for my entire life.

And since I work with them on a regular basis, I am very much aware how powerful they are, to hurt or to heal.

There is no shortage these days of hurtful words shooting through the atmosphere, whether out loud, or through electronic means.

Even when they are left unspoken or unwritten, words have the power to hurt others, for our thoughts, uncontrolled, have an energy that can send daggers into others’ hearts.

We rightfully lament the diabolic vitriol pervasive in today’s world, and despair over things ever improving.

And yet, the only place things can begin to change is with ourselves.

Have you ever stopped and paid attention to the language running through your head? Not only toward others, but also toward yourself?

Have you listened to the words you use, when you aren’t actively speaking?

Even when we are fairly mindful of speaking in positive language, it can be easy to fall through the trap door of negativity.

When I woke up this morning with numerous things to get done, I noticed my stress level escalating. I listened to myself, and all I could hear inside was panic.

“I’ve got to get this done. But that needs to be done first. But the other thing is equally important. How am I going to get it all done?”

The immediate result was I got short with those around me.

I am a pretty self-aware person, and I hadn’t been up long before I knew I already had to push the reset button on my day.

So after I took my shower, turned on some soothing music and sat on the couch, I practiced some self-talk I had just learned the day before from a meditation on Insight Timer by Sarah Blondin.

With one hand on my heart, and one hand on my belly, I repeated over and over the following words out loud: “I love you.” “I am listening.” I also paid attention to how my body felt inside while speaking those words to myself.

I could feel energy moving through my neck and shoulders and down into my lower back, all places where I tend to store stress the most.

I remembered something else she said.

Talk to yourself the way you talk to a friend or family member when you are trying to encourage them. How many of us can honestly say we talk to ourselves that way? Our bodies respond to kind words, especially when those kind words come from ourselves.

After a few minutes, with a focus I had been afraid I wasn’t going to find, I got up and started to write this reflection.

The words we use in our daily lives, in all types of situations, MATTER. They actually have the power to physically influence ourselves and people and world around us.

People who believe in the power of prayer know this to be true.

I have read of studies where plants were cared for in different ways. Some plants were spoken to kindly, in gentle, encouraging voices, while other plants were simply fed and watered, with no extra effort. The plants nurtured and spoken to with kindness flourished compared to those that were not.

Think of how you feel or have felt when you have been criticized or mocked by others.

Now think of how your heart must feel when you use critical, demeaning words with yourself, either subtly or overtly. Maybe you don’t even notice anymore, because your heart has listened to this kind of self-talk for your entire life.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

You can change your world, by changing your words.

Speak kindly to yourself. Encourage yourself. Give yourself a break more often than not.

While you are at it, speak kindly to others. Encourage others. Give others a break more often than not.

Do this consistently, and you will notice a change in your atmosphere.

SPIRIT MATTERS is a weekly column that examines experiences common to the human spirit. Contact Jerrilyn Zavada Novak at jzblue33@yahoo.com to share how you engage your spirit in your life and