Some years ago, my father called me out on my stress level. He pointed out that for several months, every time I talked to him, I talked about how stressed out I was. I didn’t even realize how much I talked about my stress. It was right before Lent, and during a time when I actually “gave up” something for those 40 days. Well it’s hard to actually give up stress, but for a while, I decided to take the word ‘stress’ out of my vocabulary. Sounds crazy, but it actually worked. Sometimes we talk ourselves into being stressed out. Also, I realized that when I focused on taking out the word, I actually looked at what was causing the stress and I was able to tackle the stressful situation. Similarly, the next year, I took the word ‘tired’ out of my vocabulary, with similar results.
I no longer use Lent or New Year’s Day to make new changes in my life, but I do continually visit the idea of removing, or at least limiting, some words from my daily lexicon. As I continue to teach my children the power of words, it becomes even more important that I choose carefully the words I give power to. Many of us grew up learning that ‘can’t’ should never be part of our lexicon. I have taught my children the same thing, however I add a twist to it. If they ‘slip’ and use the word, I encourage them to add another phrase that starts with ‘but’ – as in, “I can’t figure out this math problem, but I am going to try.” Or better yet, I ask them to change the sentence around to be more affirmative – as in, “This math problem is giving me trouble, can you please help me?” The words we speak have life and yes, they DO make a difference.
In our home, the words stupid, dumb, ugly, fat, hate, crazy, and a few others have been elevated to cuss-word status. And yes, I’m going to say it…the N-word has NO PLACE in ANYONE’s lexicon! I am annoyed with anyone who claims that we, as in African-Americans, have a right to “take back” that word, or to “take the power from it.” How can we “take back” a word that never belonged to us, but was instead (and still is) used to degrade and demean our ancestors? So instead of “taking the power from it,” why not just stop using it? And furthermore, how does continuing to use a word make it less powerful? It is a weak argument, one that I’ve heard everyone from hip-hop artists to intellectual scholars make. And to say that only African Americans can use the word is preposterous!
Yes, words have power. Words can hinder and hurt, but they can also heal and help. Use words appropriate to the situation. Think about the words you use.
(#WriteNow Challenge Day 14)